PO raided for fourth time in 12 months

POLICE are hunting shotgun-wielding robbers who struck at a village post office in Suffolk last night – the fourth time the store has been targeted this year.

By Jonathan Barnes

POLICE are hunting shotgun-wielding robbers who struck at a village post office in Suffolk last night – the fourth time the store has been targeted this year.

Two masked men burst into the premises in Hacheston, near Wickham Market, threatening the terrified sub-postmaster before escaping with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The incident has put post office security firmly back into the spotlight and came exactly a week after Debenham post office was subjected to a similar raid. Police said last night it was too early to say whether they are linked.

Last night's robbery happened just before 5pm – a similar time to the raid at Debenham a week earlier – and completed a year of misery for the post office, which is also a village store.

It was first hit in January when a raider threatened joint manager Graham Westley and fled with cash.

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The second raid happened in May, when a robber escaped with money after subjecting Mr Westley to a terrifying ordeal.

He had a bag put over his head, a sharp implement pressed to his neck while his mouth was taped up and he was tied to a window. The store, in The Street, has also fallen victim to a burglary this year.

Last night, Mr Westley was too distressed to talk about the latest incident, but was said to be "very shaken".

The raid began at 4.50pm when two black men, both wearing black balaclavas, entered the post office.

Police said one of the men threatened the sub-postmaster with a shotgun and forced him to hand over cash.

The gun, which had a shortened barrel, was not discharged and there was no-one else in the post office at the time of the raid.

The raiders escaped on foot but an investigating detective said police were exploring the possibility they also used a car or motorcycle.

Last night, acting Detective Inspector David Skevington, of Suffolk police, issued an appeal to the public for help in catching the offenders.

"This time of crime is fortunately very rare but this incident has left the sub-postmaster very shaken," he said.

"I would ask anybody who lives or works in the area of the post office, or who was passing through Hacheston at this time, to contact us."

He added there was no reason to suggest the individual raids on the post office were linked and said it was too early to say whether it was linked with other attacks on post offices.

Jon Richardson, the regional secretary of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, said: "It is very worrying that one post office has been targeted three times, in very similar raids, and that area does seem to be badly hit. This is another very shocking incident.

"I haven't spoken to Graham Westley yet but I shall be ringing him in the morning. He was very, very shocked after the first two raids and I don't know how he will react to this. You just don't expect that sort of thing."

He added: "I don't think there is a great deal more you can do when they are armed. The police need to be on the scene quickly and get roads covered, so they don't get away."

Suffolk police 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.

Anyone with information on the raid is asked to call Woodbridge police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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