FOUR heavily armed raiders stormed a New Forest pub and stole cash from tills in one of three raids – sparking a warning to bar staff by police not to work alone at night.
A sawn-off shotgun was among the weapons reportedly used by the masked men when they entered The Bold Forester in Beaulieu Road, near Marchwood, as staff were closing up for the night on Tuesday 21st May. Details of the incident have only recently been released by Hampshire Police.
No one was reported to have been injured in the robbery, which is being linked to two other incidents which took place at the Malvern pub in Winchester Road, Southampton, on Friday 17th May; and the Walnut Tree Farm pub in Adanac Drive, Nursling, on Sunday 5th May.
Debbie Lewis, who, with her husband Dwayne, owns the Bold Forester along with five other New Forest pubs, told the A&T the offenders walked in just after 11pm brandishing a knife, a baseball bat and golf clubs.
Having seen them enter, Mrs Lewis said the two bar staff on duty that night immediately retreated out through the back of the pub.
“The robbers proceeded to force open the two tills and left quickly, in what turned out to be a stolen car,” she said.
“Once the staff saw the car drive off they called the police.”
Commenting that officers arrived at the scene very quickly, Mrs Lewis said security had been enhanced at the Bold Forester in the wake of the raid.
A panic button has been installed for staff, and cash is now placed in a timer safe intermittently day and night to ensure there is little in the tills at any time.
“We also bank daily so any cash we do take is off the premises,” she continued. “With most people paying on credit/debit cards nowadays, the pub doesn’t hold much cash at any one time anyway.
“As a family-run business now owning six pubs across the New Forest, this is the first time we have ever encountered anything like this.
“Our staff are aware of modern day threats but as a business we have ensured there is a minimum risk to anyone – we have put things in place that mean it really is not worthwhile for robbers to attack us.”
The Malvern pub was targeted by three men dressed in dark clothing, who had their faces covered, as staff locked up around 11.30pm on Friday 17th May.
After being disturbed while trying to force a rear door, the trio threatened staff and customers before escaping with cash. No one was hurt.
At least four knife-bearing offenders wearing balaclavas and dark clothing threatened staff after entering the Walnut Tree Farm pub through a rear door between 11.50pm and midnight on Sunday 5th May. They gained access to a safe, from which they stole a quantity of cash before fleeing.
Although details of the Southampton and Nursling raids were released soon after they took place, the Bold Forester incident was only made public by police last week.
Questioned by the A&T about the delay, a force spokesperson said: “We don’t always include full details of incidents during initial witness appeals for operational reasons, such as to get the best evidence from potential witnesses.”
PC Brian Swallow from Hampshire Police’s licensing team sent out a warning letter to pub companies in the county the day after the raid at the Bold Forester.
Informing them of the three robberies, the letter also contained advice for pub and bar staff.
“Knives, axes, hammers, golf clubs and a crow bar have all been brandished and used to threaten staff to demand access to the safe, tills and cigarettes,” PC Swallow wrote.
“In the last instance a sawn-off shotgun was used. Staff have been physically assaulted even when complying with demands.
“I am requesting that your venues are contacted where possible and made aware of this crime series. Firstly for their safety, and secondly to ensure that, where applicable and available, CCTV is functioning correctly and serviced and, again, if applicable, any panic alarm installed is working, exterior lighting checked and repairs made if needed.”
He added: “I would also strongly advise that lone working is discouraged during these times, and if leaving the site following the closure to be aware of vehicles in car parks or being followed.”
Anyone with information about the Bold Forester raid should contact Hampshire Police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44190175294, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.