Warning over winter crime wave

ONE of the most vicious armed post office raids Suffolk has ever seen could be the beginning of a winter crime-wave, it has been warned.Staff at the Great Thurlow Post Office, near Haverhill, were left badly shaken after two masked raiders burst through the doors of the quiet village shop wielding sawn-off shotguns on Monday afternoon.

ONE of the most vicious armed post office raids Suffolk has ever seen could be the beginning of a winter crime-wave, it has been warned.

Staff at the Great Thurlow Post Office, near Haverhill, were left badly shaken after two masked raiders burst through the doors of the quiet village shop wielding sawn-off shotguns on Monday afternoon.

The men then demanded money from one female member of staff, before telling someone else to lie on the floor.

But while they were taking money from the till, a man - believed to be in his 60s - entered the store from a room at the back brandishing a ceremonial sword, and tried to fight the two-men off, receiving a blow to the head in the process.

It was the first raid to hit Suffolk in recent months, and has sparked fears of a similar spate of incidents to last winter, when a number of the county's stores and post offices were raided.

Jon Richardson, regional secretary of the National Federation of Sub Postmasters (NFSP), said he hoped Monday's raid was “a one-off”.

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“There were a lot of raids last year, and even more the year before, and we are just keeping our fingers crossed that this is not going to be the start of another spate of incidents,” he said.

“Operation Arctic (a police campaign launched to wipe out armed robberies and ram raids across Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex), has been very successful and lots of arrests have been made, which I think has lead to a reduction in robberies.

“But this time of year is always particularly bad because of the dark evenings, and people need to be extra vigilant.”

Police are now appealing for help in tracing those responsible for Monday's raid, which happened at around 4.50pm.

Early reports suggested a shot was fired by one of the men, who escaped with an unknown amount of cash.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Jepson, crime manager for West Suffolk, said despite a recent decline in the number of post office robberies, police were by no means complacent.

“We hope this is a one-off but we are mindful this is not necessarily the case,” he said. “We have had some good results but we have no intention of sitting back and hope that it doesn't happen again.

“We try and ensure that post offices in rural areas get increased attention at this time of year, and we work closely with the Post Office to find out where the vulnerable shops are in the area.

“The impact this type of offence can have on victims and the surrounding community can be very traumatic, so any information that will help us trace the people responsible is always welcome.

“We would appeal to anyone who lives near a post office, not just in villages but in estates close to artillery roads, to contact the police if they see anything suspicious, and we are very interested in registration numbers and descriptions of cars.”

Detective Inspector Andy Smith added: “The incident in Great Thurlow must have been a frightening ordeal for the members of staff in the store. They have all been left shaken but fortunately no one was injured.

“Although the member of staff was brave in tackling the offenders we would never recommend or condone that anyone takes the law into their own hands or places themselves in danger.”

Anyone with information about the road is urged to contact Bury St Edmunds CID on 01284 774100.

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