Detectives say raids may be linked
DETECTIVES are investigating the fourth raid on a store in west Suffolk in six days.The armed raid on Lavenham Co-op last night was the latest in a string of similar robberies across the region in recent weeks, heightening fears that a professional gang of raiders is targeting rural premises.
DETECTIVES were last night investigating the fourth raid on a store in west Suffolk in the past six days.
The armed raid on Lavenham Co-op last night was the latest in a string of similar robberies across the region in recent weeks, heightening fears that a professional gang of raiders is targeting rural premises.
Police said two masked raiders struck at the Co-op store in High Street at about 6.40pm, armed with an axe handle and a firearm.
The men threatened staff and escaped with a "small" quantity of cash. They are thought to have used a vehicle to get away from the scene and a police spokesman said there could have been others involved in the raid.
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The robbery comes a little over 24 hours after four armed men raided the Spar Shop and Post Office in Great Cornard, smashing a security screen before escaping with cash.
Within the past six days, a petrol station forecourt in Sudbury and a shop in Great Cornard have also been targeted.
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Before last night's raid, police said they were looking at a string of raids over recent months to see if they were linked.
Since October, there have been at least 17 raids on premises across the region, with many of the crimes bearing a striking resemblance.
Detective Inspector Simon Manthorpe, of Sudbury CID, said: "We are liaising with neighbouring forces in relation to robberies which have occurred in the other counties, especially Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, where similar robberies and ram raids have taken place close to the border with Suffolk."
In the raid at Cornard, four masked men, armed with a sawn-off shotgun, an axe, a metal pole and a branch from a tree, burst into the shop and stole a quantity of cash after smashing a counter security screen with their weapons. They escaped in a white vehicle.
Two vehicles, a white Vauxhall Cavalier and a white Subaru vehicle have since been found burned out in the nearby villages of Little Cornard and Hundon.
Shop owner Henry Byham, who also owns the Spar Shop in Hall Street, Long Melford, which was targeted by armed robbers just weeks before, said: "I have to assume there is a gang targeting the area. Both the raids at my shops have been very similar.
"The situation is very frightening – we try to be as secure as possible but we have to open to the public so there is only so much you can do."
An Essex Police spokesman said: "We are working very closely with other forces to note the similarities between these offences and are discussing the possibility they could be linked. Inquiries are ongoing."
Anyone with any information about any of the raids should contact Suffolk police in 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.