LEGENDARY former motorcycle champion Sammy Miller believes thieves who targeted his museum along with the tea rooms and three shops may have been acting on inside information.
“In the tearooms the safe was well hidden in a storeroom amongst a load of stuff – unless you knew, you wouldn’t have a clue it was there.
“But after breaking in, the burglars headed straight for that room. I think they must have inside knowledge.”
Sammy, who lives next to the museum, was alerted to the raid at 2.45am on Tuesday morning after someone who lives on the premises returned from a night shift and noticed smashed windows.
He said: “I was very shocked; we’ve been here for 24 years and apart from a guide dog collection box being taken nothing like this has ever happened.
“It’s very upsetting for all of us here. They’ve caused damage to all the shops and the tearooms. I am so angry about it all.”
The gang drove to the museum in a lorry which they then used to remove a large, heavy metal safe which was in the office. The petty cash box was also ripped open and money stolen. An expensive camera was also taken.
Although the museum houses many rare motorcycles, none of them were taken in the raid.
Sammy, who was British champion 11 times, said he believed several thousand pounds had been stolen by the gang. A fence in front of the museum was broken down by the thieves so they could get the lorry nearer to it.
They then used an animal feed trailer to transport the safe from the office to the vehicle.
He said: “It was very heavy, but they just took it with no problem. I don’t know how they knew where to find the trailer either.”
At Bashley Manor tearooms Suzanne Webber, who has worked there for eight years, said she discovered it had been broken into when she arrived at 7am.
She said: “I noticed the kitchen window was open and there were scones thrown over a table outside.
“They had got cash out of the till and jemmied the storeroom door open. The safe in there was ripped out and taken away.
“They seemed to know where the safe was as they went straight for the storeroom; it wasn’t easy to find as it was hidden from view. We are just lucky they didn’t smash the place up.”
Tearoom owner Neil Farley was still trying to work out exactly how much the thieves had got away with but estimated it to be “at least several hundred pounds”.
At the Yarn and Crafts shop, owners Kim Green and Izzy Fribbins were left with a broken window and a ransacked store but luckily lost no money.
Mrs Green said: “We keep a small cash float, but they didn’t find it. We are still left with having to pay for the window and clearing up the mess they left.”
At Gifts with a Smile no money was taken, but a window was smashed. Owner Arthur Phillips said: “Judging by how they made their way along all the shops, besides doing the museum and the tearoom, they seem to have been here for quite a while.”
Police attended the incident just after it was discovered but a furious Sammy has now been told forensic officers will not be able to visit to collect evidence until next week.
He said: “I was told they would be here on Monday, then I got a message saying they were busy and would not be here for a week.
“It’s disgusting, now we have got to clear up a lot of what could be evidence just so we and the other businesses can open again.”
A spokesperson for Hampshire police said: “We have received a report of a burglary which took place at the Sammy Miller Museum in Bashley.
“This took place sometime between 4pm on Monday 16th of March and 7am Tuesday morning.
“The team rooms, gift shop and museum were all accessed. A safe was stolen from inside along with a cash tin. Enquiries are ongoing.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact on 101 quoting 44200100110.”