A DISABLED Iraqi war veteran and a nurse left unable to go to work were among the victims of a gang of teenagers who went on the rampage for over four hours, smashing car windows in Lymington and Pennington – attacking at least 18 vehicles in 13 roads.
Described as “four youths in hoodies” they used huge boulders, crow bars and a hammer to wreak havoc in what was described as an act of “total mindless vandalism.”
As the wreaking spree continued, police, according to one victim, were “left playing catch-up” – desperately trying to stop the attacks which started late on Tuesday night and went into the early hours of Wednesday.
In two separate incidents residents confronted the vandals and but had abuse hurled at them before the youngsters just carried on.
Former soldier Steven Lambourne, who lives in Bays Road, branded the act as “an act of total mindless vandalism.”
The back windscreen of his Hyundai SUV was completely smashed in, one of at least eight cars attacked in the Pennington road.
‘It is just disgusting’
A furious Mr Lambourne, who was injured while serving in Iraq in 2004, said: “It is just disgusting. They didn’t take anything, even though there was money and other stuff they could have.
“All they did was break the window apparently just for fun.
“Obviously being disabled I rely on my car to get me everywhere and, because it is foreign, I’ve been told it could take at least three months for a new back windscreen to be imported.
“I don’t know what I am going to do. I am just so angry about it.”
He did not realise his car had been attacked until a neighbour knocked on his door on Wednesday morning.
Mr Lambourne said: “People around here heard crashing and banging from 10pm to 2am, they were ringing the police but no one came.
“The trouble is we have no police station anymore and virtually no police patrolling around Lymington either. At least no one got hurt, thank God.”
Sean Steankamp, who also lives in Bay Road, told how his wife had caught the gang attacking a neighbour’s car but police refused to come out to investigate.
He said: “She heard this smashing noise sometime after eleven and when she looked out to see what was going on she realised the neighbour’s car was being attacked.
“She called the police but they just gave her a crime reference number. After smashing the neighbour’s car up they then went round the back to the car park and attacked about four or five other cars.
“It’s ludicrous. If the police had responded straight away they might have caught them in the act and stopped other cars being damaged.”
According to some reports police eventually responded around 11.30pm – an hour and a half after the gang, who also stole a mobile phone, purse, coats and tools, first struck.
In Bays Road a Red Fiat had three of its windows, including the back windscreen smashed in. A BMW had also been targeted, Mr Lambourne’s Hyundai, Mr Steenkamp’s neighbour’s car and a Ford Focus belonging to Pat and Joan Read.
‘They had two large metal bars’
Mrs Read had returned from babysitting at 11.15pm on Tuesday night leaving their vehicle in a car park behind the couples’ house.
She said: “It is just annoying. I had so many plans for today, including taking some of my grandchildren to school, but the car was full of smashed glass so there was no way I could do that.”
The gang struck in Bays Road, Fullerton Road, Eastern Road, Southampton Road, Gordon Road, Lower Buckland Road, Ramley Road, Yarrell Mead, Pinetops Close, Highfield Avenue, St Thomas Park, Beresford Road and Torreyana Gardens.
In Pinetops Close Mike Smith told how his neighbour confronted the youths after they had attacked four cars in the street.
He said: “My neighbour came out and caught them at it. He said they had two large metal bars on them, he shouted at them they dropped the bars, then ran off.”
Mr Smith said police officers later arrived at his home and told him they were looking for the gang. He said: “They seemed to be trying to play catch-up as I understand once they gang left here, they went up the road and just carried on.”
Nurse Krishna Austin said she was left “terrified and shaking” after the gang attacked her and her neighbour’s cars in Lower Buckland Road.
She said: “It was just after 10pm and I heard this huge bang. My neighbour came to tell me what had happened.
“A lady who had seen the gang from her window told us that she thought they were carrying beer crates up the road, then she saw that it was actually huge rocks which they then proceeded to smash my car with.
“I found two big rocks in front and behind my car. I phoned the police straight away but they refused to come and told me to dial 101 to ‘register’ it’.”
Mrs Austin, who was due to go to work on Wednesday morning, said: “If they had come out they might have been able to catch the gang and stop them doing further damage
“I was absolutely terrified all night, thinking they might come back. I couldn’t go to work this morning and in the afternoon I could not get to see an elderly man that I care for.
“Tomorrow I was due to take someone to Southampton General Hospital but I can’t do that now. Thanks to those horrible people I have had to let others down.”
One householder who did not want to be named said when he did approach the gang he just received a “hurl of abuse” saying: “They had two large metal bars so I just left them to it. It was quite frightening.”
Teenager Tom Pollard said he found a hammer the gang dropped which they had used to smash his car up with in Yarrell Mead which was parked on his driveway.
‘I am so angry’
He said: “At 11.50 I heard a huge crash then the alarm went off. I rushed out and the back and rear windows of my car had been smashed.
“I saw four youths, all in black, wearing hoodies running off down the street. I followed and found a hammer which they had obviously used to damage my car.
“I immediately phoned the police and they promised to phone me back either straight away, or today but I haven’t heard a thing. I had to tape my car up so I could drive to college this morning.
“I am so angry the police haven’t even bothered to contact me, they could possibly get fingerprints off the hammer for a start.”
‘Like a wild goose chase’
Sophie Kemp had her car targeted in Leigh Park around 10.55pm. She said when she called the police she was told as there “was no threat to life” police were not going to respond.
She said: “It must have quickly become clear that there was a large number being smashed up. If they had sent a patrol car then at least they might have been stopped.”
Lymington councillor Andrew Gossage said he had been in contact with the police about the gang, telling the A&T: “I think they (police) were running around after them like a wild goose chase.
“The point is this isn’t anti-social behaviour, this is criminal damage worth thousands of pounds, and it affects residents in terms of their own safety and their confidence in the police, which are issues that I would like to address.”
He said he would be raising the matter with the town council and arranging a meeting with the police’s safer neighbourhood team to discuss what action can be taken to prevent further incidents.
Police have confirmed they are investigating the incidents. In a statement they said:
“I can confirm we received a number of reports overnight of multiple vehicles being damaged in Bays Road, Fullerton Road, Eastern Road, Southampton Road, Gordon Road, Lower Buckland Road, Ramley Road, Yarrell Mead, and Pinetops Close.
“At the time of some of the calls no units were available to deploy to the area, as they were all committed with other ongoing incidents. However, officers did deploy through the night when they were available to do so. Enquiries are ongoing.”
Those with information about the incidents should call police on 101, quoting 44190426007.