Robbery gang strikes again

CHRIS BISHOP A gang behind a string of armed robberies has struck again, police said today.Masked men with shotguns were challenged as they approached a house in Wereham, near Downham Market last night.

CHRIS BISHOP

A robbery gang which has brought fear to Norfolk's rural communities has struck again, police said today.

Masked men with shotguns were challenged as they approached a house in Wereham, near Downham Market last night.

They left the scene in a dark-coloured car after being confronted by a householder. Police including armed officers have been carrying out enquiries at the scene all night.

The incident is the sixth robbery or attempted robbery in the area in less than a week. Norfolk's Major Incident Team has been drafted in to run the hunt for the gang, who are believed to be behind raids in Stowbridge, Pott Row, North Runcton, Upwell and Wisbech.

The attacks began with an armed robbery at Stowbridge, near Downham Market, last Thursday, during which a householder was attacked before the gang made off with a safe containing a large quantity of cash.

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At around 9.15pm on Friday, three men wearing balaclavas, two armed with iron bars, first knocked at the door and then forced entry to a house in Long Lane, Pott Row, occupied by two elderly women.

They stole handbags containing cash in the region of £200 and left the scene in a dark- coloured vehicle travelling at speed in the direction of Grimston.

At 10.20pm on Saturday, five men in a car were seen acting suspiciously in New Road in North Runcton.

When a man in his late teens returned home he was confronted in his driveway by three masked men armed with shotguns and an iron bar demanding cash and jewellery.

The gang fled empty-handed in a red or maroon-coloured Vauxhall Vectra after the victim's father activated a burglar alarm at the property.

The following evening, at 10.15pm, a couple in their 60s were pushed to the floor and threatened in their home in Begdale Road, Wisbech, by a gang armed with shotguns and iron bars.

Later, householders in Townsend Road, in nearby Upwell were alerted to four masked men at the back of their property, three of whom were armed with shotguns and a metal bar.

The gang demanded cash and started attacking the home, smashing a number of windows, before leaving empty-handed in a dark-coloured vehicle, possibly a Vauxhall Cavalier.

Det Chief Insp Neil Firm said the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire forces were working together on the inquiry.

“This series of robberies is extremely unusual by virtue of the premises targeted and the level of firearms used,” he added.

“We are liaising closely with colleagues in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere across the region as part of our investigation and have a number of strong lines of inquiry. We are particularly keen to gather information on a maroon or red Vauxhall vehicle seen at the scene of one of these incidents.

“High visibility police patrols have been stepped up and people can be reassured that our investigation will leave no stone left unturned.

“In the meantime, I would remind householders to take the usual routine steps to ensure their home is kept secure, to keep valuables and large quantities of cash in a secure location away from the home and to report any suspicious activity or vehicles immediately to police by dialling 999 - giving as much detail as they can.”

Det Insp Trudie Skeels, of Cambridgeshire police, said the Wisbech attack was “a particularly nasty incident”.

Detectives investigating the offences are appealing for any witnesses to suspicious activity or vehicles in any of these villages at the relevant times or leading up to the offences.

Contact Downham Market CID on 0845 456 4567 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Any suspicious activity should be reported to police using the non-emergency number or by dialling 999 if a crime is in progress or the suspects or vehicles are still in the area.

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