Thieves raid shops and steal car in town centre spree

The damage caused at Kim's Tea and Coffee House, Saffron Walden. Picture: ARCHANT

The damage caused at Kim's Tea and Coffee House, Saffron Walden. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

After five shops were broken into in Saffron Walden in one night, and a Range Rover stolen, victims have spoken bitterly about the weak police response.

The damage caused at Kim's Tea and Coffee House, Saffron Walden. Picture: ARCHANT

The damage caused at Kim's Tea and Coffee House, Saffron Walden. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The Range Rover Evoque, worth £32,000, was stolen on Monday afternoon. Owner Nicola Brooks of Brooks Dress Agency in Rose and Crown Walk, has now put in a formal complaint to the police.

Miss Brooks said the car, which she had only owned for six months, had been parked 50 yards from her shop.

She believes the thieves "cloned" the key which was in her handbag with the shop door open. "At home, I keep the key in a tin but I didn't think I needed to do that in here - in the middle of the day." She had parked the car in the morning and it was gone by 4pm. There was CCTV in use but Miss Brooks says the police declined to look at it.

Speaking to the Reporter yesterday (Wednesday) she said: "I have written a formal complaint to the police headquarters at Chelmsford. The police still haven't been to see me, I went into the Market Square to find them."

She says having dialed 999, she was told it was not an emergency. But on dialling 101, she waited half an hour before the call was answered giving the thief an hour to get away.

She reported the crime at 4.30pm. At 6.45pm, she received an email from the crime bureaux saying the case was closed.

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"This ignored any CCTV footage. An officer in Saffron Walden who said he had been patrolling the town on day said he had not been notified of the theft and would have been able to react accordingly if he had.

"If Essex Police have no intention of investigating the theft of a £32,000 car stolen in broad day light in the centre of Saffron Walden, is it any wonder criminals appear to see the town as fair game?"

The break-ins all took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Worst hit was Kim's Coffee Shop in Hill Street.

A distraught Kim Halliday said: "It's 24 hours on and no police have been here, except the forensics officer who said there was no hope of finding anyone."

The thieves caused damage worth thousands smashing through finely made wooden doors to gain entry to the listed building. They also smashed an internal door to get to the safe and stole £300 "float" for customers' change.

Ms Halliday, who has had the cafe for 16 years, said: "Bizzarely, they took all my supplies of butter and margarine. They left my freezer door open so it ruined all my ice cream and other perishable goods. They took bin bags, shopping bags and a laptop."

She added: "It doesn't help that the park gates (in Jubilee Gardens) are left open. I've asked the town council about it and they said I was fussing for nothing.

"Kids go in there smoking dope. I told the police and they just laughed."

A spokesman for Saffron Walden Town Council said: "The gates have been left open for three years. We don't have the staff to close them. We have invited shopkeepers to close the gates themselves in the past."

At Connie's Pantry in Market Row. The the thieves took an iPad and money from the Breast Cancer charity box.

Owner, Sylvia Thompson said: "That was sickening but I was lucky, the alarm went off and they didn't go upstairs. There was a mess where they were opening drawers but we were open in time for lunch."

At Mini Miss Bread in Church Street, thieves entered through a skylight. Baker Jeff Charnock, whose bread shop has been open just seven weeks, said: "They took an iPad and a toaster. There's nothing of value in here and we are often at work by 3am."

At the Maze Turkish Restaurant on the Market Square, entry was gained by smashing rear windows. Thieves stole an iPhone, a pair of speakers and a bottle of Bacardi. Waitress Gallia Goddard, said: "They kept looking for things but as if they didn't know what they were looking for. They unplugged our sound system but left it there. They took a bottle of Prosecco out of the fridge but decided not to take it. We never leave money in the till, we always leave the empty till open, otherwise they would have smashed it."

It was a similar story at Clark's shoe shop in High Street.

Assistant supervisor Rachael Emery said: "They broke in through the front door, there was glass everywhere but the alarm went off and they didn't take anything. It's very sad that local businesses were hit."

Sergeant Simon Miah, who leads the Saffron Walden town centre team, said: "We understand the impact burglaries have on the town centre community and we are working with our partners to find those responsible.

"My team continues to build on the strong established links we have with town centre businesses and this will only get stronger through visible policing.

"Anyone with information is asked to call Saffron Waldon police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

The spokesman said officers from the town centre team had spoken to all the businesses involved and were working with Saffron Walden Town Council to establish CCTV opportunities.

The spokesman added: "We have Police Community Support Officers carrying out patrols and all the affected businesses are members of the town's Shop Watch scheme, helping them to share information and keep up-to-date."