Terror as sledgehammer-wielding raiders burst into Aylsham bank

PUBLISHED: 07:42 07 December 2012

Barclays Bank, Aylsham. Photo: Steve Adams

Barclays Bank, Aylsham. Photo: Steve Adams

Violent raiders, one brandishing a sledgehammer, burst their way into an Aylsham town-centre bank and assaulted a member of the terrified staff.

Barclays Bank, Aylsham. Car believed to be involved in the raid unsuccessfully burnt out, parked off Hungate Street. Photo: Steve AdamsBarclays Bank, Aylsham. Car believed to be involved in the raid unsuccessfully burnt out, parked off Hungate Street. Photo: Steve Adams

The balaclava-wearing men, who were seen and heard jumping and banging around inside the building, demanded cash but are believed to have fled empty handed, possibly in a silver Vauxhall Astra car which was later found burnt out opposite an infants school about half a mile away.

The drama began just before 2.20pm yesterday when three or four men burst through the back entrance of Barclay’s Bank, on Market Place.

An eye-witness, who did not want to be identified, said: “We came around the corner in the Market Place and when we looked in the window of Barclays Bank we could see a group of young lads leaping about.

“We thought they were larking around at first, but then we realised one of them had an axe in his hand and another had a stick,

Inez Welton, an eye-witness to the bank raid at Aylsham.Inez Welton, an eye-witness to the bank raid at Aylsham.

“We rushed to the newsagents and told them to call the police as we realised there were security guards in there who were getting knocked about. It’s terrible. I’m still shaking like a leaf.”

At Barnwells, the Market Place newsagents opposite the bank, assistant Inez Welton said a couple came into the shop and urged them to dial 999 because a robbery was taking place.

She ran outside to look and said: “I could see a security guard in there with his hands up. There were three to four men in black wearing balaclavas.

“I came back to the shop and said to Gwen ‘you’ve got to ring 999. There’s a raid going on’.” Mrs Welton added that the raiders were “running about” inside the bank.

Barnwells manager Gwen Wright said she had been serving customers when people rushed in and urged her to ring 999 because a raid was taking place at Barclays.

“All I know is that someone thought there were security guards at the bank and someone said they had heard knocking on the wall,” said Mrs Wright.

At least four police vehicles and an ambulance rushed to the scene and were parked outside the bank, lights flashing, and in nearby Market Place which was busy with alarmed shoppers and curious schoolchildren by 3.30pm. A police helicopter hovered overhead.

Sally Smith believes there were customers in the bank at the time of the raid.

“When the first police patrol car turned up I peered through the window and I could see a chap in there wearing builder’s overalls. He was on his mobile and I think he was a customer,” said Mrs Smith, who was helping her husband Martin, an independent financial advisor with offices across the road from the bank, on the corner of Burgh Road.

It is understood that no-one was hurt in the raid.

Just around the corner from Market Place, Kiel Cubitt was serving in the King’s Kebab shop, directly beside the Barclay’s Bank car park where the entrance is located which was used by the raiders.

“I saw an Astra come out and it sped off down Hungate Street. I didn’t know what had happened so I didn’t think much of it,” said Mr Cubitt.

But he said the shop had three, working, exterior CCTV cameras, two trained on Hungate Street in each direction, and one in the car park.

“They may have caught something on them. I told the police we had them and they said they’d send someone back for the film,” Mr Cubitt added.

Minutes after the raid, the car fire was also reported, in Hungate Street.

Yesterday afternoon police were guarding the burnt-out car, found abandoned in a parking area for new flats, opposite John of Gaunt Infant and Nursery School.

Staff and children were inside the school at the time, rehearsing for their nativity. They did not notice the incident, but saw the police cars and the burnt out car when they left a little while later.

Police were going door to door in Hungate Street yesterday asking residents if they had seen or heard anything.

Officers were still inside the bank at 5pm and the back area was cordoned off with police tape.

A sign on the shut front door of the bank read: “Sorry, but due to circumstances beyond our control we are unable to open this branch at the moment.”

The incident is being investigated by officers from Great Yarmouth CID. Witnesses can call them on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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