A series of smash-and-grab raids has left Blackpool traders counting the cost of a gang’s ruthless crime spree.
Leaving a trail of damage in their wake, the thieves fled with meat, drinks, equipment and cash after smashing their way into takeaways and sandwich shops across the resort – including some twice.
At least seven businesses have been targeted in the past week – some of them twice –but there are fears more have been hit.
But, after being given the names and addresses of the alleged offenders by one takeaway owner-turned detective, at least two people are thought to have been arrested.
The traders spoke out just hours after it was revealed that fewer than one in 20 burglaries and robberies in Blackpool are solved, with police admitting the force must do better.
Bjorn Beyl, who runs Yummy Tummy in St Annes Road, South Shore, with his partner Leoni Wilson, said he went looking for the gang after they smashed their way into his shop in the early hours of Sunday.
The thieves fled after being challenged by a neighbour, but left behind a rucksack full of tools – as well as forensic and CCTV evidence.
Bjorn, armed with pictures of the suspects on his phone, even went to their former home in the town, and said: “I was out looking for them thinking ‘we need to stop them, it could go on and on’.”
Yummy Tummy was targeted at around 12.10am on Sunday, with the same three thieves allegedly caught on camera at Kate’s sandwich shop in Woodland Grove, off Whitegate Drive, were seen walking up to the takeaway’s front door.
Moments later, a window was smashed and the burglers quietly filled takeaway bags with an electronic tablet – used to take online orders – chocolate, and panini and milkshake machines.
The next door neighbour, who did not want to be named, dialled 999 after his ‘spooked’ cat aroused his suspicions – and saw two of the men fleeing through the back alley.
He said: “I went in the shop with a big torch and I saw, by the window, there was one left to his own devices.
“I challenged him and told him to put down what he had in his hands and come quietly.
“He took one look at me, spun around, barged a table and two chairs out the way, and dived through the window he came in.”
Bjorn said the business was forced to stay shut on Sunday – a day it usually takes £800 – and had to pay out £250 for a new window.
The startled raiders fled without taking a rucksack full of tools – and trainers – they had brought with them, he added.
Nosh, in Whitegate Drive, was burgled on Monday morning, at around 1am, and again the following night, with the crooks stealing 300 rashers of bacon, blocks of cheese, crisps, fizzy drinks, and a hot drinks machine.
Chelsea Taylor, who helps her mum, Karen Lodge, run the shop, said the raiders scaled a 10-foot wall and smashed their way in through a back glass door both times.
They escaped with stock the first time, and some stock and equipment the second, forcing the family-run business to close for the day.
Chelsea said: “They took things they could carry out and pass over the wall. There was four or five of them, so they could have been in a line passing it along.
“The first night there was stuff all over the back yard.”
She said of the thieves: “I don’t think anything of them. I just think they are not worth it. They are not worth getting mad about. I don’t understand why they would do it.”
Kate’s sandwich shop was the first of several to be broken into last week – and was again targeted in the early hours of yesterday.
Owner Kate Seed could not be reached for a comment, but the business posted on Facebook yesterday: “Kate’s has been broken into AGAIN this morning.
“To say we are livid is an understatement. We have very little information at the moment to the damage caused, as we [are] waiting for CSI, but will keep you posted.”
The environmentally-friendly eatery, which uses compostable cutlery and cardboard boxes to avoid plastic waste, uploaded snaps of new door handles, paint, and curtains last Wednesday, ahead of a re-opening on Thursday.
A day earlier, it said the shop had been ‘ransacked and all food [had been] destroyed’.
“The police and CSI have now gone so hopefully we are going to catch who did this,” it added.
“I’ve got to say thank you to all the amazing help and support offered here today. I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to stop crying.”
A GoFundMe page, which takes online donations, was set up, purportedly by Kate, saying: “We really need shutters but simply cannot afford it. Any help would mean so much. We don’t want Kate’s to go.”
Some £222 had been donated yesterday, against a target of £900.
In the early hours of yesterday, when Nosh and Kate’s were targeted again, other nearby businesses were hit, though not all successfully.
The group also tried to break in to the No.3 Chippy in Whitegate Drive, but did not get in, owner Kath Riches said.
She said it happened at around 2am, adding: “They got disturbed because the guy who lives above [the shop] has a dog and it barked, so he looked out the window and saw them.
“He ran down the stairs and they ran off.”
At around 2.30am, the Premier shop across from the chippy, and Nosh, was broken into, a worker yesterday said.
Bjorn said police arrested a man and woman close to Kate’s at around 4am.
Ms Riches, who said her chippy had been open for 12 years without incident, said officers were looking for forensic evidence yesterday afternoon, and added: “I asked if they got them and they said, ‘Yes.’”
Lancashire Police did not respond to repeated requests for a comment yesterday.