Mugging victim offers £10,000 for return of heirloom watch after police admit case was mishandled

A mugging victim is offering a £10,000 reward for the return of his rare designer watch after a police force apologised for failing to solve the crime.

The man, who does not want to be identified for fear of being targeted again, was getting into a taxi after his 50th birthday dinner in a Bournemouth restaurant when he was grabbed and the family heirloom was stolen off his wrist.

Two years on, the Patek Philippe Nautilus watch has not been recovered, and the police have no leads.

After the victim made a complaint, Dorset Police apologised and accepted their handling of the case was “not acceptable”.

Officers failed to treat the incident as a serious crime and lost the “golden hour”  for collecting key forensic evidence.

The victim claims he was targeted by a gang he believes to be Albanian, and his group were watched at a local hotel bar then followed to the restaurant.

The Nici hotel in Bournemouth

The Nici hotel in Bournemouth where the victim believes he was watched by the criminals before being followed to the restaurant – Max Willcock/BNPS

But police did not collect witness statements or the hotel’s CCTV footage, and failed to do DNA swabs of the victim’s wrist.

The victim claims the gang ignored others in the group wearing gold watches, and singled him out. He says some pieces like his watch sell for a six-figure sum

The watch, which he rarely wore out because of its value, was given to him by his father six weeks before he died, and he planned to pass it down to his own son.

But it was stolen on June 25 2022 when his family and friends left an Indian restaurant where they had celebrated his birthday.

Teenagers blocked victim’s chase

As he got into a taxi, a man in a hoody grabbed his arm, snatched the watch and ran off down the road.

The victim tried to chase him for about half a mile, but was then blocked by a gang of at least 10 teenagers, who he believes were part of the plan.

The man said: “I was spotted at a local hotel and then followed. I had friends down from all over the country for my 50th.

“We picked up the fact we were being watched in the hotel bar. They were eastern European and weren’t talking to each other, just looking at us.

The bar in the Nici hotel

The bar in the Nici hotel in Bournemouth, where the victim said he saw a group of people observing him – Max Willcock/BNPS

“I’ve only worn the watch about five times and I wouldn’t have worn it if I’d realised we were going out in Bournemouth.

“I was getting in the taxi, when you think you’re safe. He hooked his hands under my watch so all he had to do was release the clasp. It was very quick.

“The assailant was waiting outside the restaurant the whole time. He knew where the cameras were and had a hoody on.

“After five days, the case finally got moved off uniforms. It should have gone straight to serious crime but it didn’t.

“The police’s attitude seemed to be ‘It’s just a watch’, but if I had been robbed of that value in cash, they would have treated it as a serious crime.

CCTV evidence was lost

“I told them my friends were happy to be interviewed and could give descriptions of the people seen at the Nici hotel bar but they said they didn’t need to interview any witnesses because the hotel has CCTV.

“I chased if they had the CCTV and the detective said he’d do it when he got back from holiday. By the time he contacted the hotel, about 25 days after the robbery, they had recorded over it and they lost all that evidence.”

The man added that he has not made a claim through his insurance because if he did and the watch was then recovered, it would be the property of the insurance company.

“It’s a family heirloom, I could get the value through insurance but it wouldn’t be my watch. I can’t move on, I’m stuck in limbo,” he said.

Dorset Police HQ

Dorset Police has apologised for the mistakes and says its procedures have been changed – BNPS

In a letter to the victim, Dorset Police said there was a “lack of early recognition of the threat and harm of organised criminality” and the investigation was not handled in a timely manner.

It said: “Its organised nature was not recognised. The result of this was that some key forensic (both physical and digital) as well as witness lines of enquiry were not undertaken within this ‘golden hour’ period.”

The letter also acknowledged they had “plenty of time” to secure the CCTV and forensic swabs should have been taken.

It continued: “This, of course, does not help you in getting your watch back. There is no guarantee that if we had completed the above enquiries at the outset that we would have identified and convicted an offender but it would certainly have given us a better opportunity to do so whilst at the same time disrupting this criminal behaviour.

“As such, I apologise on behalf of Dorset Police for the service provided at the time. Where mistakes were made, the officers have been advised and we have treated this as an opportunity to learn and improve our processes.”

Det Sutp Steve May, of Dorset Police, said: “We acknowledge that there could have been more done in the early stages when this incident was reported to Dorset Police. Since this occurred in 2022, we have changed the process when an initial report is made so that the value of items stolen is now recorded.

“We have learnt from this incident and now strive to ensure that an assessment of a report made to the force is conducted initially and clear investigative direction is given from the outset.”

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