Armed raid on village post office

By John HowardFEARS were voiced last night that more beleaguered postmasters will close their post offices after another armed raid on a village store.

By John Howard

FEARS were voiced last night that more beleaguered postmasters will close their post offices after another armed raid on a village store.

Armed robbers struck yesterday morning at Haughley post office, near Stowmarket, and threatened staff.

The gang, who wore balaclavas and were armed with a sawn-off shotgun and a hammer, demand cash from the post office staff, but fled empty-handed after the two women workers set off an alarm.

Now postmasters in the region fear such violent raids could lead to more of their colleagues who run rural post offices shutting up shop.

Jon Richardson, who is an Ipswich sub-postmaster and regional secretary for the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, said: "If you are a victim of a robbery, it haunts you for years - people can never get over it.

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"This can ruin your life and the worrying thing is that soon someone could get hurt. Post offices are so important to rural communities and it is worrying to think that some postmasters might just have had enough."

He added: "There are enough pressures on rural post offices at the moment without anything additional.

"Security measures are in place and the Post Office cannot do any more, but we do not want any more branches to close. If people are worried about security, it might even deter new people coming in to the industry."

The latest armed raid happened at the Old Street post office in Haughley shortly before 9.55am yesterday.

After terrifying staff, the gang fled and abandoned their getaway car, a stolen red Ford Sierra, in Dagworth Lane on the outskirts of the village and drove off in another vehicle.

No-one was injured in the raid and the two women post office workers managed to escape out the back of the store after setting off the alarm.

Sue Thorley, 40, who lives near the post office said: "It is such a busy post office and you don't expect this sort of thing to happen here. The most important thing is that no-one was hurt."

Her son, Sam, 14, added: "I had a clear view of the post office and I could hear some smashing going on inside and a bloke outside saying 'Hurry up, get the money'.

"I ran to call the police, but by the time I had done that they had gone in a red Ford Sierra. I saw the two ladies working in the shop run out of the back as the men came in the front.

"After they had gone there was a lot of people who came out into the street to make sure the women were all right. I think a lot of people had called the police."

Staff felt unable to talk about their ordeal yesterday, but a spokeswoman for Post Office Ltd said it took the safety of staff and customers extremely seriously.

A Suffolk police spokesman said two robbers had gone into the post office while a third member of the gang had stayed outside in the getaway car.

"The third offender, who is believed to have been carrying something similar to a scythe, waited outside the shop door," he added.

"The two offenders who entered the store made demands to two female members of staff. One of the offenders was believed to be carrying a sawn-off shotgun and the other was carrying a large hammer.

"Staff sounded an audible alarm and the offenders left the scene empty-handed in a red Ford Sierra which was previously stolen from outside an address in Gipping Way in Stowmarket."

The robbers were all described as about 6ft tall, of slim build and wearing balaclavas, jeans and white trainers.

Detective Sergeant Andy Smith, of Suffolk police, said: "This must have been a terrifying ordeal for the two members of staff. Fortunately, they were not injured, but they have been left extremely shaken.

"We would like to hear form anyone who witnessed the incident to contact us as a matter of priority. We particularly keen to hear form anyone who witnessed the offenders changing vehicles on Dagworth Lane."

Anyone with information should contact Suffolk police on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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