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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Car jacking and what I've learned from it

Dr Matthew Kiln on the lessons for all GPs from his own terrifying experience

n January 10

this year I had completed morning surgery, done a few home visits, called in at a residential home and driven back to the practice. It was just after 4pm and beginning to get dark. I drove up to the place where I normally park. This is about 50 yards from the front door of the practice. I drive a BMW, and usually there are two similar cars parked near my front door. One belongs to the manager of a fish and chip shop, the other to an estate agent.

I had difficulty parking as three young men were standing half in my parking place. I wound down my window to ask them to move, but as I was doing so, one of them opened my door and told me to get out.

Simultaneously another youth jumped into the passenger seat (my passenger door was not locked) and I felt a thump on the side of my head. The youth holding the door on my side then pulled out a knife and said 'Get out or I'll stab you'. I got out of the car.

I realised I was squarely facing the youth with the knife and I remember making sure my overcoat covered my chest. I also remember thinking 'What on earth should I do? I don't want to end up in casualty'.

The youth with the knife pushed me to one side, climbed into the car (the engine was running) let the third youth into the back and drove off. They all seemed remarkably composed and sure of themselves. It was a very smooth operation.

I remained on the pavement, stunned. There are some rough estates in my practice, but the surgery itself is in a well-to-do part and trouble was the last thing I expected there. I was completely unprepared for such an occurrence, but when the shock had passed I realised that in fact I had been lucky. I was uninjured and within a few yards of my surgery front door.

I immediately phoned the police who sent an officer round and took details. The police were very helpful and supportive, as were my partners and staff. They suggested I didn't do surgery that night, or next day, although as I recall I did come in the next morning.

The car was written off the following night in a high-speed chase, and I had time to gather my thoughts. I realised I had done the right thing giving in gracefully and not fighting back, though at the time I was tempted to go on the attack. The police said I had certainly done the right thing.

For a while I went 'downmarket' and drove my daughter's old VW Polo, but then I thought, this is ridiculous, so I bought another BMW. Again the police said I had done the right thing. 'Don't give in to these people,' they said.

Now I take precautions. I always drive with the doors locked, I look around carefully before I park, especially after dark, and I don't get out if there's anyone hanging around. I've also got toughened glass windows.

One of the things I've asked myself is ­ would some sort of tuition on how to behave in such circumstances have helped, and I think it would. During the attack I did the right thing purely by chance. Being taught how to react appropriately must be a good thing. Since the attack I've considered some form of self-defence training. I'm chiefly interested in knowing how to behave appropriately. This is more important to me then being trained to fight. But I wonder whether I would remember what to do.

I can only repeat that I was attacked in a smart and wealthy part of London, and colleagues of mine up and down Britain tell me that these attacks can and do happen in the leafiest suburbs, so I think it pays all GPs to take precautions.

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