Raiders target more village stores

VITAL village stores at the heart of their rural communities are being increasingly targeted by ram-raiders and thieves.In just the past six weeks, nine Co-op stores in the region have been raided, all in small rural village locations.

VITAL village stores at the heart of their rural communities are being increasingly targeted by ram-raiders and thieves.

In just the past six weeks, nine Co-op stores in the region have been raided, all in small rural village locations.

On October 7, thieves failed in a bid to steal a cash machine and cigarettes from a store in Dedham in Essex, but caused £20,000 of damage to the Grade One listed building in the process.

Clare, near Sudbury, was the next store to be hit on October 20, when raiders escaped with tobacco, before the store was targeted again on November 4 and more cigarettes were stolen.

A shop in Brantham, near Ipswich, was burgled on October 24 but the bungling criminals dropped the stolen safe while making their getaway.

Another Co-op store in Burwell, near Newmarket, was ram-raided on November 4, the thieves escaping with more cigarettes.

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A shop in Long Melford was then hit by armed ram-raiders just a day later, with cigarettes again the target.

West Bergholt in Essex was the next to be targeted by armed robbers, who escaped with thousands of pounds after forcing staff to open their safe on Monday.

And, on Wednesday , thieves stole more cigarettes from another Co-op in Bungay, before the Woolpit store was also hit in the early hours of yesterday morning.

There have also been recent raids at the One Stop shop in Reynolds Way in Ipswich – although nothing was taken – and at another Co-op in Claydon, near Ipswich.

Detective Inspector Graham Moss, of Suffolk police, is involved in the regional response to the problem.

He told the EADT last night: “There has been a trend towards raids in villages but then there's always one that bucks the modus operandi really, like the One Stop in Ipswich.

“I don't think that the Co-op is being targeted specifically, but they've got lots of stores in village locations.

“Without putting iron bars across stores I'm not sure what's going to prevent them.

“They're not in any way discreet about they way they're breaking into these places – they're just smashing their way in.”

In the latest raids in Bungay and Woolpit – which police believe may be linked – a stolen red BMW 325, taken from the High Street in Tuddenham St Mary, near Mildenhall, was used.

After the car was stolen between 9pm and 10pm on Wednesday night, a couple driving a Subaru on the A143 towards Diss reported that the vehicle had been used to try and force them off the road.

It was then driven to the Annis Hill Co-op in Bungay, which was raided by three men at 11.20pm that night. They escaped with a large quantity of cigarettes.

Just under an hour later, at 12.10am yesterday morning, a group of four or five balaclava-clad men stole more cigarettes from the Woolpit Co-op.

Two cars, including a red BMW, were seen later in the Monks Eleigh area. Police want to speak to anyone who saw the cars, or who has information about the raids.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the Ipswich and Norwich Co-operative group, which owns the stores at Long Melford, Brantham, Woolpit and Claydon, said she couldn't comment on fears that the chain was being targeted.

But she added: “We are continually reviewing our security arrangements and would like to thank the police for their prompt attendance at recent incidents.”

Anyone who has any information about the latest raids should call Suffolk Police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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