‘He pushes me and starts punching me in the face’ – are dentists being targeted by organised gangs?

Kunal Patel tells the story of an organised gang that planned to kidnap him and ransack his house.

Can you explain to us what exactly happened?

I’m opening new clinics in my local area. It’s an area where I’ve grown up my whole life and I’m opening a number of Love Teeth dental practices.

I’ve had one here since 2014, and this year we decided to open five others in the same way.

We just had our launch event, so the practice had a launch party on Friday and a few celebrities came.

It was around 4:30 PM, broad daylight. At the back of Love Teeth Sutton there is a dead-end car park.

There’s a row of restaurants and there’s a back alleyway where you get a number of taxi drivers, delivery drivers but otherwise it’s private.

I was at the back of the practice and my contractors, four builders, are still doing bits and bobs. I’m there speaking to them about the back door and one of them comes up to me and says, Kunal, go to your car, there’s a kid there with a hood on.

My car was parked behind a blind spot and there’s a silver Golf that’s turning around in this alleyway and one of my builders has seen somebody get out of this car with a hood on and go towards my car.

First thing that comes into my mind is that person isn’t going to get my laptop out of the car. In this area we do have local kids that mess about. I’m thinking it’s just some local kids and I’ll just scare them away.

As I start going back towards my car the silver Golf beeps its horn to alert whoever was outside of their car to get back in.

As I see this person getting into their car I start running a bit faster and I stopped the car with my hands on the bonnet.

I now look in and there’s four grown men, balaclavas, ski masks and I start thinking this is a bit strange.

All of a sudden, they fling open their doors and they start chasing me.

My instinct is that I may have just annoyed them, I’ve stopped them in the act.

They’re annoyed they won’t want to fight and I’m thinking I’ve got four builders there, I’m safe.

I turn around and run back towards my builders.

I do a Tom Cruise-style jump over the bonnet of a car between the skip and I’m thinking no way anyone can get through that gap.

I’m small, I got through it.

Little do I know this guy is huge and he’s just stepped over the bonnet of this car and he’s still coming for me.

He pushes me to the back of the building and starts punching me in the face.

I’m bleeding, he’s broken my nose, which is bleeding quite heavily and I’ve fallen to the floor.

He’s still hitting me and I’m thinking, what does this guy want?

All of a sudden I hear him say: ‘Give me your ******* watch!’

As I’m taking my watch off I see a big knife in the corner of my eye. I’m thinking, luckily I’ve handed my watch over.

As soon as they get the watch in their hand, they run back to the car and the car drives off.

Now I get up, start walking back towards where the cars have driven off from and I’m thinking, where are my builders?

I’m limping, my face is bleeding, I’m thinking, where is everyone? The builders come running back to me saying where have you been stabbed? Where have you been stabbed?

And I say, I don’t think I have, I don’t know, check. At that moment I hear people saying guns, knives. Apparently, they had guns, they had machetes.

From the audio of the CCTV footage you can hear them say: ‘Have you got it? Have you got it? Yes, I’ve got it.’

Do you think this was a planned attack?

Yes, it’s a bit strange.

I was a bit confused about what was actually going on at this time because, I’ve been scuffles in my life when I was younger. I’ve been in a few issues, but these guys were persistent and they kept coming for me.

And obviously they asked for my watch, so I’m thinking they just came for my watch.

At the time, when I jumped over the front of the car, my nurse came out of the back of the building, she’s seen these guys, seen the gun and closed the door.

She ran back into the building screaming inside the building: ‘Get everyone out of the building, we’re being robbed, we’re being robbed, everyone get out the front of the building.’

They call the police, say there’s guns, so the police turned up in 10 minutes, and it’s the armed police.

I know in my head I’m feeling okay, I’ve got a broken nose, I’m bleeding, but I’m okay.

We show the police the video and they look at it is as if they know of these group of people and then they leave. And that was more or less the end of it.

Detectives came back five days later to my house, they were ringing the doorbell and come in without an appointment.

They said: ‘First thing I want to say is really sorry.’

I ask why and they say: ‘We didn’t do our job properly. We didn’t get your phone number down correctly.

‘That’s why we haven’t been over sooner and unfortunately they forgot to take any forensics at the scene of the crime on the day. Do you still have the clothes that you were wearing?’

I point out it’s five days later, they’ve been washed, I’ve washed.

So unfortunately, the police didn’t manage to do their jobs correctly and about four weeks after that I got a letter in the post saying the case has been closed due to a lack of forensics taken at the scene and the guys on CCTV were wearing balaclavas. I think the police do suspect a gang.

And even if they were to find them, they probably would get away with it because there’s not enough forensic evidence.

‘Be vigilant’

When speaking to the police they tell me this is organised crime.

They say: ‘This isn’t normal general criminals, this is targeted and actually you’re quite lucky.’

The motive of this gang is usually to put a tracker on the car and at some stage kidnap the person take them to their home and ransack the house with your family.

What happened on that day was I actually disturbed them while they were placing the tracker on my car.

The police don’t reassure me by saying it is obvious I’ve been targeted and there will be other gangs like this that could potentially be targeting me.

‘So just be vigilant, okay?’ they said.

I asked what can I do to protect myself, because I hear a few people getting trained dogs or a bodyguard.

They said: ‘That’s good, it’s a deterrent for low end criminals. But for organised criminals that’s no deterrent whatsoever.

‘They’ll kill their dog or they pull out a gun like they did for you and nobody is going to protect you.’

Obviously this this left me very nervous.

The police have now labelled me as a celebrity in the local area, which I did say I didn’t want to be on because according to the police, it doesn’t give me any speed alert response time or anything.

But it has given me a reality check.

What I did was create a brand, it was all part of a plan where I wanted Love Teeth to be popular.

Dentistry was always related to the dentist who was the principal. We started the whole project with Doctor KP being the lead, then we went to hit all target audiences.

Lucy was my wife, glamorous, I had two Lamborghinis. It was all there, our lives were in the open for everyone to see. I was a family guy and it did sort of work.

There was part of my mind thinking this has got to end, it has to be about Love Teeth, not so much me.

I guess this was the point that made me realise, this is it.

In our conversations you’ve mentioned that you feel like dentists are being targeted. What gives you that impression?

I’ve heard other colleagues it has happened to, a couple of dentists I know in the industry. And they’re targeting watches because, according to what I hear, dentists are known to have nice things. Many of us seem to be fond of watches.

A few days after the mugging, I didn’t want to stop what I was doing in life, I still had my duties.

I went to an event, it was a dinner event with top providers and I was sat there at that dinner with my broken nose now wearing an Apple Watch.

More or less, 90% of that room was wearing a watch worth thousands of pounds.

I was just thinking we leave ourselves exposed.

You could just book an appointment with the dentist, know that they’re going to be at a certain location.

It was clearly an attempt to target my watch and maybe more than the watch. It was an expensive watch, so they clearly had been watching me or been informed that I wear this watch.

My feelings were that I had to get rid of everything I owned. The very next day after the mugging, both Lamborghinis were sold and off my drive.

The watch collection sold.

It gave me a reality check that I had these things as little personal trophies for what I’ve done in life.

But my wife’s pregnant right now, I’ve got kids and I just had to end that.

What would you recommend other dentists do? Is there anything they can do?

I made that decision and to be fair, it was tough. But there was a sense of relief once it was all gone.

I thought these things identified me – they don’t.

There’s some people that say to me you shouldn’t have to do that, we work hard for our money. So, I don’t suggest everyone does what I do, but what I do suggest is that we’re just a bit more vigilant.

I only wear nice things now if I’m getting dropped off literally doorstep to doorstep.

But otherwise, it might be right to keep things hidden.

It’s a shame, but I think everyone has to take their own circumstances into account. I felt as if I had to make a life change in that sense.

Dentistry needs some sort of awareness out there. I don’t think we’ve realised that watches are a target. These organised criminals know it’s so easy to move objects like watches. I think just be a bit vigilant when going and leaving work.

We have a rule now across all sites, nobody leaves alone, so there’s always two people closing up every evening at all the sites.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen to anyone, but we are targets clearly and that’s what the police also said.

The police have been contacted for comment.

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