Victim makes court plea to burglars
A university professor who was savagely beaten in his home by a gang of burglars has faced them in court and demanded they explain "the real reason" he was targeted.
Paul Kohler, 55, suffered a fractured eye socket, a fracture to his left jawbone, a broken nose and bruising that left him "utterly unrecognisable" during the attack at his home in Wimbledon, south London.
His wife, Samantha MacArthur, 50, was also threatened by two of the four intruders on the night of August 11 last year.
As the group of four Polish nationals' sentencing got under way at Kingston Crown Court, Mr Kohler said that their crime had "nothing to do with immigration".
Delivering his witness statement flanked by Ms MacArthur, he said: "The attack on our home destroyed the calm of a family evening.
"The pointless ferocity and utter senselessness endangered my family's peace of mind, my physical and our psychological well-being and risked fomenting issues within the wider community both in Wimbledon and beyond."
Mr Kohler said that although the "mindless action of the perpetrators has undermined the security of what has been a wonderfully happy family home for over two decades" the family had no thoughts of moving.
But he added: "We do however want to put this behind us and to do so successfully we need to understand why we were attacked.
"I consequently want to say to each of the attackers that, if you are genuinely remorseful, you will waste no more time in telling us, through your counsel if you wish, the real reason we were targeted."
He also said that the attack had "allowed some to push an anti-Polish agenda which sullied the name of a proud and honourable nation".
"I would, on behalf of my family, like to finish by thanking our many well-wishers, both within and beyond the Polish community, and to stress that the actions of the perpetrators had nothing to do with immigration, and were simply an example of mindless thuggery," he said.
Pawel Honc, 24, of no fixed abode, and Mariusz Tomaszewski, 32, of Crusoe Road, Mitcham, south London, have admitted causing Mr Kohler grievous bodily harm with intent and aggravated burglary.
Two other men, Oskar Pawlowicz, 30, of Pitcairn Road in Mitcham, and Dawid Tychon, 29, of no fixed abode, have both pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary.
Prosecutor Charles Evans said that the men had left Mr Kohler in fear for his life during the onslaught.
The attack began when Mr Kohler went to answer the door while his wife, 24-year-old daughter Eloise and her boyfriend Geraint were upstairs.
The four men burst in wearing scarves to conceal their identity and blue latex gloves, Mr Evans said, with the first of them "practically falling into the hallway".
Mr Evans said: "No words were used, nor threats, just a rain of punches described by Mr Kohler as harder than anything he had ever experienced."
One of the men demanded "where's the money?" and Mr Kohler screamed "you've got the wrong address", the court heard.
Mr Kohler, who is head of law at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, was pushed to the floor and one of the men sat on him and repeatedly punched him in the face while another man kicked him in the head.
"Mr Kohler says that the fact the male sitting on him seemed to be enjoying himself made him fear for his life," Mr Evans said.
During the five-minute attack, one of the men also threatened Mr Kohler by holding a wooden cabinet door over his head ready to swing it down on him.
Two of the men ran upstairs and confronted Ms MacArthur, pushing her to the floor and covering her face so she could not see what was happening.
When she thought she was alone she tried to move, but one of the men grabbed her and told her in an Eastern European accent that they did not want to hurt but would do so if she moved.
Eloise and Geraint were able to hide in her bedroom and lock the door while they called the police.
Mr Evans said: "Mr Kohler has absolutely no idea why the defendants targeted him and believes the defendants came to the wrong address.
"Subsequent checks showed that several items had been taken - an Apple Mac laptop, an HP laptop and two mobile phones.
"The total value of these items is said to be approximately £2,000. They were however recovered in due course."
The court heard that Tomaszewski, who served eight years in Poland for burglary, or Tychon were thought to be the group's "organisers".
Matthew Buckland, for Tomaszewski, said his client admitted being one of the men who went upstairs and confronted Ms MacArthur.
He also accepted that he had taken part in the attack on Mr Kohler by kicking him in the face.
"To the extent that the others point the finger at him, he does not accept that," Mr Buckland said.
"He does not accept that he was responsible for recruiting or encouraging any of them."
Mr Buckland said Tomaszewski believed that he was at Mr Kohler's address to "enforce a debt" on the night of the attack.
The court heard that Honc was a man of previous good character who claimed to have taken part in the attack to settle a drug debt he had with Tomaszewski.
His lawyer, Rossano Scamardella, told Judge Susan Tapping: "In short, he owed money to his co-defendant Mr Tomaszewski, the result of purchasing drugs from him.
"He was given those drugs effectively on tip and when he couldn't pay that debit it placed him in the debt of Mr Tomaszewski.
"At Mr Tomaszewski's request he was asked to accompany him to a house where he knew full well what might happen."
Mr Scamardella said that had his client known that the targets of the raid were people who had "nothing to do with the world in which Mr Tomaszewski mixed", he would not have become involved.
Ben Rich, for Pawlowicz, said that his client had not taken part in the violence and denied that he had been the one who threatened Ms MacArthur.
He claimed to have been at the property to steal items including antiques and was one of two men who went upstairs, where he took computers.
"Mr Pawlowicz is not in a position to help Mr Kohler and his family in regards to why this particular house was picked," Mr Rich said.
"He was not told of a debt, he was told this was to be a burglary at which he would be able to help himself to things in the house.
"He anticipated there to be, among other things, antiquities at the house."
Mr Rich said that the defendant's previous convictions for robbery and violent disorder in Poland had resulted in suspended sentences.