GARDENING equipment valued at up to £25,000 was stolen by masked raiders who forced their way into a New Forest garden machinery store.
The gang targeted SPG Mowers, at Battramsley Farm off Shirley Holms Road in Boldre, on Wednesday night.
The three men, who were caught on CCTV pulling up in a white Ford Transit van, first smashed a window on the company’s vehicle to gain entry and move it away from the main entrance to the store, before making a hole in the metal security shutters with a disc cutter.
Once inside, they used the disc cutter to release the hand-held tools from their security ties, which had been installed in the wake of a break-in last year.
Alerted by a phone call from the automated alarm system, owner Nik Moore logged onto his home PC to remotely view the CCTV feed, which showed the showroom door open but no movement inside.
He and his partner Clare Edwards then called the police and rushed to the store from their Sway property, arriving around 8.40pm, by which time the culprits had gone.
Although impressed by officers’ quick attendance at the scene, Mr Moore told the A&T he was not very confident they would be able to catch the offenders, citing a lack of resources amid continued policing cuts.
“Three cars attended promptly, arriving within a couple of minutes of Clare and me,” he said.
“Two checked the farmyard for further damage, before leaving, and one remained until late into the night taking our statements and evidence.
“The officers were all very helpful and sympathetic to our plight, but left us in little doubt that there was any chance of seeing our property again, or that the culprits would be successfully prosecuted for the crime.”
The latest raid came as a further blow to the couple as they had invested in increased security measures following the previous one in February 2018 when chainsaws worth over £8,000 were snatched.
This had included the cables and padlocks securing the machinery to the walls, as well as alarm systems and safes.
CCTV cameras also cover the showroom, and these captured footage of last Wednesday’s intruders who showed they were undeterred by the extra protection put in place.
“We feel so deflated,” Mr Moore said, adding that recently expanding the range of machinery they sold resulted in them losing a higher value of stock than last time.
“The knock-on effect will be further increased insurance premiums again next year and many a sleepless night wondering if tonight will be the night it happens again.
“We knew we were going to get targeted again because of what we do and because there are precious little police around these days.”
Although the couple were able to open up at the usual time the following morning, they and two others spent the whole day tidying up and trying to make the showroom look presentable again.
“Hopefully our fantastic customers will be equally understanding again this time around when we have to explain how this lost time will mean some delays in returning the machinery we have in for service and repair,” Mr Moore added.
Police are investigating the latest raid, which took place between 8.20pm and 8.30pm, and people are being urged to come forward if they saw any suspicious activity.
Those with information should contact Hampshire police on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.