Brave academic Paul Kohler chased violent burglars after brutal Wimbledon assault

Paul Kohler a week on from the brutal attack in his home.

Paul Kohler a week on from the brutal attack in his home.

First published in News
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Wandsworth Guardian: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Chief Reporter

An academic brutally assaulted during a failed burglary last week has revealed that police had to restrain him and his wife from attacking their assailants.

Despite suffering horrific damage to his face, including a shattered left eye socket, father-of-four Paul Kohler and his newly-wed wife Samantha MacArthur, were over-whelmed with such intense anger towards the burglars that when the police rushed into free them they had to be restrained from venting their feelings on the men.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Mr Kohler and his wife Samantha MacArthur in their garden. 

And Mr Kohler even attempted to chase as two of them fled from their home in Kings Road, Wimbledon.

Detectives have released an image of Polish man Oskar Pawlowichz, 29, who is still wanted in connection with the attack.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Mr Kohler said: "I was aware of one policeman running in and grabbing one of them and then me being on my feet.

"I think one ran out the front door and I chased after him but as you can imagine I wasn't too swift on my feet and he was nowhere to be seen.

"I hit the cold air and just collapsed on the car on the drive just as two police vans sped up the road looking for us.

"I waved them down."

Amazingly, considering the severity of his injuries which mean he is facing a series of operations to rebuild the muscle and bone of his shattered left eye socket, Paul Kohler is now back home and surrounded by flowers from well-wishers.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Mr Kohler and Miss MacArthur with some of the flowers from well-wishers. 

Police have charged two men with aggravated burglary and grievous bodily harm and a third man has been arrested.

A major manhunt continues for a fourth man, Oskar Pawlowichz, 29 amid fears he may be trying to flee home to Poland.

Sitting at their kitchen table last night, a week after the attack, Mr Kohler and Miss MacArthur, 50, told the Wimbledon Guardian about their ordeal and paid tribute to everyone who has helped them in the past few days.

Surrounded by fragrant blooms delivered on a daily basis by well-wishers, the family is now having to borrow vases because they have run out.

Bunches of flowers of every colour fill every available surface in the house they are determined to re-claim as a family home and not a crime scene.

"We’ve had five bunches today alone," Miss MacArthur said.

Days ago four men burst in, demanding money, before brutally attacking Mr Kohler and restraining and threatening Miss MacArthur.

Wandsworth Guardian:

The hallway where the attack happened.

Mr Kohler said: "Three were attacking me.

"One was punching me repeatedly, one was kicking me in the side, another was holding me down at groin level trying to grab my testicles, not that he ever succeeded.

"I kept kicking away, so that’s lucky."

One of the couple’s four daughters Eloise was upstairs with her boyfriend Geraint Ellis at the time, and managed to dial 999.

She saved her dad’s life, her mother said.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Mr Kohler with daughter Eloise, who dialled 999.

Mr Kohler, 55, who is now recovering at home after being released from St George’s Hospital on Saturday, said: "During moments of the beating, as they got the gaffer tape out to gaffer my mouth up, when they got the wooden cocktail cabinet door to bring it down on my head I thought ‘My God, this might be a murder.’

"There’s not a huge amount of pain at that point, there’s adrenaline pumping round your system.

"Later there was a huge sense of euphoria actually because you have been saved."

Mr Kohler’s eye swelled up bigger than a golf ball, Miss MacArthur said, and there was blood all over the hallway where the attack took place.

He was vomiting blood after being rushed to St George’s Hospital by ambulance where he spent five days.

He said: "Initially with the first or second punch I lost the sight of my left eye, so for 24 hours I thought I’d lost that eye but it came back and it was working fine."

Pointing to his left eye and chuckling, Mr Kohler said: "I’ve seen the X-ray, there’s a bit missing on the outside, and I’m not clear where it now is, is it floating around? I don’t know.

"When I look left I get double vision."

Wandsworth Guardian:

Happier times: The couple with their four daughters on their wedding day in April. 

The couple had just finished a family meal with Eloise, 24, and Mr Ellis, both former Edinburgh University students, who had gone upstairs.

Miss MacArthur and Mr Kohler had taken a break in playing a card game in the kitchen called Lost Cities when there was a knock at the door.

Miss MacArthur was on the first floor of the three-storey property when she heard her husband shouting for help.

She said: "I ran out onto the landing and saw two men come upstairs with their faces covered with scarves so you could just see their eyes.

"It was strange; I couldn’t work out what they were doing there.

"One of them pushed me to the ground and one put something over my face and my head so I couldn’t see anything and told me to stay there I was going to be hurt.

"I tried to get up a couple of times but I was pushed down both times and threatened again."

She said she remembers lying on the floor not being able to move, and hoping her daughter had called the police.

She had, and eight minutes later ‘the cavalry arrived.’

There has been intense media interest in the violent burglary, and Mr Kohler said there has been some mis-reporting.

"There was no attempt to tape Sam to a chair, the only tape that was being used was an attempt to tape my mouth but I kept biting it so they couldn’t do it," he said.

One theory being investigated by police is the gang was looking for takings from the family’s tiny cabaret bar, the Cellar Door, in central London.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Newly-weds with some acts from their cabaret bar on their wedding day. 

My Kohler said: "I love my little bar.

"I first noticed the space as a disused toilet over a decade ago, no, more than that, when I was at University College London in the late 1990s.

"Westminster Council wanted to fill it with concrete but I said you’ve got this wonderful space in the middle of the most expensive square mile in the world, why don’t you give us the lease?

"The head of commercial property was on our side and we eventually persuaded the council and politicians to grant us a lease so we converted what was a concrete mess, an ex-loo, into this tiny bar and it’s been open for nearly eight years now."

Miss MacArthur is co-director for the business, which she does from home.

The bar is free entry and it has the capacity for 60 people at a time, although Mr Kohler said he prefers fewer people in there because otherwise people cannot get to the bar to get a drink, and ‘frankly, that’s counter-productive in a bar.’

A former pupil of Jesus College in Cambridge, where the couple got married in April this year, Mr Kohler used to run the May balls with Prince Edward, and his passion for event planning continued long after he graduated.

He said: "It’s a large part of the cabaret community, and they’ve been very supportive.

"We’ve got drag acts, avant-garde, experimental cabaret; we go to Edinburgh every year to look for acts.

"We were meant to go on Wednesday, but I don’t know if I'll be able to now."

He said the majority of their sales are by card and he would only take home a couple of hundred pounds when cashing up.

Mr Kohler said: "I remain utterly convinced it was mistaken identity, I can’t see any other solution.

"My fear is we'll catch some or all of them and that’s not enough, I really want to know why."

The family has been overwhelmed by the support of the community since the ordeal.

Wandsworth Guardian:

Mr Kohler the day after the attack

They wanted to thank everyone who has shown kindness to them.

Mr Kohler said: "At the end of the day it’s a very positive story.

"Yes, there are these four thugs and every society has psychos and nutters in, but what has come out of it is this sense of humanity.

"Our friends have pulled together, strangers, acquaintances, people I haven’t heard from in 20 years, it’s phenomenal.

"A woman came to see me; I don’t know who she was. She came from Putney and she’d baked some shortcake."

He said their gym, the Nuffield Health Fitness and Well-being Centre in The Broadway, had brought a bunch of flowers round and frozen their membership while they recover.

On the night neighbours comforted them and brought blankets out.

Coming back to the house was initially a bit traumatic but they are determined to psychologically re-claim their home.

Wandsworth Guardian:

The house in Kings Road. 

The home-coming was not helped by Crystal Palace conceding a goal to Arsenal on the same day, Mr Kohler, a season ticket holder for Crystal Palace, joked.

Mr Kohler has been walking around the house, and said he has lain down in the hallway so he can be there without ‘this guy above me,’ to re-claim his territory.

At the time, he said he felt a mixture of bewilderment and an amazing sense of stupidity that he had let the attackers into his home.

"It was pretty chaotic," he said.

He had a strong desire to protect his family, and became very angry after police arrived.

Miss MacArthur said the couple had to be held back by officers as they expressed an intense anger towards their attackers.

Two men have been charged with aggravated burglary and grievous bodily harm.

Pawel Honc, 23, of no fixed address, and Mariusz Tomaszewski, 32, of Crusoe Road, Mitcham, will next appear at Kingston Crown Court on Wednesday, August 27.

A 30-year-old man was arrested on Garratt Lane in Wandsworth on suspicion of aggravated burglary.

He is currently in custody at a south London police station pending further investigation.

Detectives have released an image of Polish man Oskar Pawlowichz, 29, who is still wanted in connection with the attack.

Anyone with information is urged to call the incident room on 020 8649 3159; Or if you with to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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