Raiders strike at island bank

RESIDENTS on a quiet island community in Essex have been left stunned after armed robbers targeted a bank in an audacious raid.

James Hore

RESIDENTS on a quiet island community in Essex have been left stunned after armed robbers targeted a bank in an audacious raid.

The robbers struck at Barclays in West Mersea shortly before 8.30am yesterday as staff opened up the branch in Yorick Road in the middle of the town.

The bank teller, named locally as Rita, was carrying out morning security checks when she was confronted by a man with a gun.

She ran off and called police and armed officers and the force's helicopter were soon at the scene.

It is thought the two robbers, who fled empty-handed in a stolen car, were wearing blue boiler suits.

Most Read

The Strood, which is the only road onto and off Mersea, was immediately sealed off by police who carried out checks on all vehicles leaving the island.

The robbers, who residents claimed lived locally, were still at large last night.

One man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery although police have said it was as a precautionary measure and anticipate there will be no further action against him.

Kevin Porter, who lives opposite the bank, was alerted to the drama as he heard the screech of police cars arriving outside his house.

The Tesco worker said: “I came out of the front door and the police were shouting 'get out of the way - you are in the line of fire'.

“More cars arrived and then there was the police helicopter too. It was just unbelievable.

“They sent the dogs in and there was a lot of screaming and the next thing we knew was a police car with tinted windows screeched down the side of the car park.”

Mr Porter, 54, said it was the normal procedure for the staff opening the bank to check around the building to make sure there were no security problems.

“It was as Rita was doing the checks that they stuck a gun in her face - she cleared off which I think was very brave of her.

“It is so quiet here normally - we are just a small outback island, people do not even know we are here.

“People are saying it was a couple of local guys - the names are being 'buzzed around',” he said.

Scenes of crime officers carried out forensic examinations at the bank and house-to-house enquiries took place throughout the day.

Police were last night trying to find a five-door silver Ford Fiesta, registration number YT 52 MXZ, which they believe may have been stolen by robbers in the immediate area of the robbery and used as a getaway vehicle.

A spokesman for Barclays said: “I believe that the staff involved are ok.

“It will be a shock so staff are offered counselling if they want it and if people are upset we look after them and make sure that they are ok before they have to go back to work.”

Anyone with any information about the robbery or the stolen Fiesta is asked to call detectives at Colchester on 0300 333 4444, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.