Warning after spate of walk-in raids

CROOKS who carried out a spate of walk-in raids on pensioners' homes gagged one of their victims as she tried to make a desperate call for help.Suffolk police called the incidents “despicable” and have drafted in forensics officers to try and catch those responsible for the raids which happened across Forest Heath on Monday night.

Laurence Cawley

CROOKS who carried out a spate of walk-in raids on pensioners' homes gagged one of their victims as she tried to make a desperate call for help.

Suffolk police called the incidents “despicable” and have drafted in forensics officers to try and catch those responsible for the raids which happened across Forest Heath on Monday night.

The force believes the incidents, which happened in Brandon, Mildenhall and Barton Mills, could be connected and are not ruling out a wider link with similar crimes in Chippenham currently under investigation by Cambridgeshire Police.

Last night one of the victims joined the police in calling for anybody with information to come forward.

At 7pm a woman in her 70s was watching television at her home in Queen's Road, Brandon, when she discovered a man in her lounge doorway who claimed somebody had been in her bedroom. She later found a second man in her living room and as she shouted for a neighbour her mouth was covered by one of the men and she was made to sit down. Cash was later found to be stolen.

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A few minutes later in Church Lane Close, Barton Mills, Mildenhall, Keith Barton, who is in his 70s, was enjoying his roast beef dinner when a man walked into his living room.

Describing what happened next, Mr Barton, who did National Service as a young man, said: “All of a sudden the door opened and this feller walked in. He must have known I was in here.

“He said he was from Neighbourhood Watch and I said 'I don't think you are'. I was a bit taken aback but told him he had to leave. I left him in no doubt that he had to go. I suppose it could have been worse if I'd not been in.”

Mr Barton echoed the police's call for anybody with information about the string of incidents to come forward with information.

The other incidents happened in Tower Close in Brandon, between 6.30pm and 9pm, when a woman in her 70s discovered an intruder had stolen money from her purse, and in Trinity Avenue, Mildenhall, when, at about 7.05pm, two men called at the home of an elderly woman claiming they needed to turn off her water. She let them in, but followed them around her house until they left.

Det Insp John Brocklebank said the police were pursuing those responsible “with vigour”. He said: “These offenders have preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of society. These despicable crimes have caused extreme distress to the victims and officers will be revisiting all of them to offer reassurance, to do forensic work where applicable and to investigate these offences.

“The offenders appear to have deliberately targeted these individuals - I want to hear from anyone who may have seen any suspicious persons in the areas where these burglaries took place, yesterday and over the weekend. It is possible these offenders have called at other properties, either yesterday or at some other time.

“They are using a degree of violence and control and we need to find them and we need to find them quickly. I've got a team working on it and we will pursue them with all the vigour we can.”

Residents are reminded to be vigilant, to secure windows and doors and to use a door chain while checking the identity of unknown visitors. Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of a distraction burglary or similar offence should call 999 immediately. Anybody who may have been in any of these areas around the relevant times or has any information about these crimes should contact Mildenhall CID on 01473 613500.

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