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A gang struck at the popular Kempton Park Racecourse fair on Tuesday, April 13, first piercing the car tyre of a jewellery dealer and then accosting him during an unscheduled stop at a nearby petrol station. In this case the thieves had picked on the wrong man – the 67-year-old Hertfordshire man was a former fencing and boxing champion who tackled one of the thieves. The gang of four fled emptyhanded. However, the dealer conceded he was lucky to escape unhurt with his stock and takings and warned others to be on their guard.

“I am sure I saw one of the gang at the fair,” he said. “Clearly they were selecting their target, and I don’t suppose I will be the only one.

“Obviously it was planned,” he added. “They must have punctured my tyre so I would break down on the road. Suddenly [while at the petrol station] this car pulled up and a young man got out and grabbed the air hose before I got to it,” said the dealer. “I told him there was a queue, but then one of his friends tried to distract me by asking the way to London. The next thing I knew, one of them had opened the car door and was running off with my bag. I rugby tackled him and he dropped it and they drove off. They even seemed to know just which bag to grab – the one with the small items of jewellery in, not the more bulky stock.”

Police have been informed and security guards at Kempton believe they may have captured the criminals’ small dark blue car on video.

The men are all described as short, slightly built and of Latin American appearance with Spanish accents. Two are in their early 20s, one in his late 40s and one in his early 50s.

Dealers are advised to check tyres, radiators and fuel lines before departing from fairs.