Call for more protection for POs

By John HowardA POSTMASTER has called for a greater police presence in rural towns and villages after two armed raids on post offices in the region.In the first robbery, two masked men burst into Birch Mini Market and Post Office in Birch, near Colchester, at 2pm on Thursday.

By John Howard

A POSTMASTER has called for a greater police presence in rural towns and villages after two armed raids on post offices in the region.

In the first robbery, two masked men burst into Birch Mini Market and Post Office in Birch, near Colchester, at 2pm on Thursday.

They pointed a shotgun and kitchen knife at two women working there, demanded cash and fled with what police described as a substantial sum.


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In the second raid, two men wearing balaclavas struck at Debenham Post Office at about 5.10pm on Thursday. Armed with what are believed to be shotguns, they escaped with a small amount of cash.

Postmistress Mary Bloom was at work in the Debenham store with her son at the time of the robbery, but she was too upset yesterday to talk about her ordeal.

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However, her husband, Peter, said: “Apart from being shaken up, no-one is actually hurt, but I think my wife and son will be quite shaken for some time. It can't be a nice thing to have a gun pointed at you.”

No-one was available to talk about the incident at the Birch Mini Market and Post Office yesterday.

But Jon Richardson, regional secretary for the National Federation of Postmasters, claimed post office workers were living in fear of further raids.

Mr Richardson, who runs a post office in Ipswich, said: “What worries me is that so many are willing to use shotguns.

“Postmasters and mistresses are very worried in rural communities about the risk of being attacked, it is never far from your mind. We always seem to get hit at this time of year, it's a very bad time for the Post Office.

“We cannot do much more to improve security and I would like to see more police about. The police response needs to be as fast as possible.

“Very often people are short of money at Christmas time and seasonal work is not available, so people look to other ways of getting money. Robberies usually leave staff very, very distressed.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said they launched Operation Penny, a campaign to protect post offices in the county, in October.

As part of the operation, officers have called on every post office in the county and given staff advice on what measures they can take to prevent a robbery, as well as on what to do, should they become a victim.

Posters and information packs have also been distributed and the spokeswoman added high-visibility patrols had been increased in the areas of post offices.

A spokesman for Post Office Ltd said the Birch and Debenham branches had been closed temporarily, but it was hoped to reopen them as soon as possible. She added staff would be offered counselling and said security was reviewed at post offices on an ongoing basis.

Suffolk police said the robbers who struck in Debenham were believed to be aged in their 20s, of average build and wearing balaclavas, dark jackets and jeans.

Officers are also investigating the possibility a white Ford Sierra, registration H263 YUC, which had been stolen from Needham Market earlier on Thursday and was later found abandoned in Sackville Street, Debenham, after the robbery, was connected to the raid.

The car's nearside wing mirror was damaged and police said they were anxious to talk to anyone who may have seen the car or had an accident with it after 3pm on Thursday.

Anyone with information should contact Suffolk police on 01473 383413 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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