Masked robbers steal lorry full of North Walsham-made baby mats at knife point

Eric White at East Coast Nursery in 2010. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Eric White at East Coast Nursery in 2010. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

A north Norfolk factory boss says he is completely baffled after masked robbers held up a lorry driver at knife-point and stole a huge quantity of baby-change mats made by his company.

Three men in balaclavas cut open the side curtain on a lorry parked in a layby on the A12 near Margaretting, in Essex.

The Spanish driver got out of his cab and was then threatened with the knife.

He was taking about 3,000 baby-change mats, worth a four figure sum, from East Coast Nursery, based in North Walsham, to a Spanish customer.

The robbers made off with about 2,000 of the mats, worth under £10,000, leaving the driver shocked and frightened, according to Eric White, executive chairman of the 50-year-old East Coast Group which is one of the town's biggest employers, with about 150 staff.

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'Our main concern was for the driver. He came back here and stayed the night. He was very traumatised,' said Mr White.

'We've no idea at all why this lorry was targeted. We've never had anything like this happen before. I think it may have been an opportunist theft. It's a very strange thing to take. We make more interesting products of higher value - pushchairs and cots.'

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East Coast Nursery has now alerted others in the trade in case they are approached by anyone trying to sell the mats.

'We are also concerned that we have let a customer down in Spain. We are quickly remaking as many as we can and getting them off this week. This sort of thing doesn't make our country look good,' Mr White added.

Most lorries used by the company were rigid but the lorry which was attacked had been Spanish, with curtain sides.

East Coast Nursery exported to countries including Dubai and Russia and supplied all the major outlets, including Toys R Us, Mothercare and John Lewis.

The attack happened at about 5pm on Wednesday, November 20. Anyone with information is urged to contact PC Dan Bennington, or his colleagues at Chelmsford CID, on 101.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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