St Barbe museum among targets hit by nighttime charity cash raiders

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St Barbe Art Gallery and Museum in New Street, Lymington

CHARITY money was targeted when thieves raided a museum and a hair salon in the New Forest on two consecutive nights.

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Entry was forced to St Barbe Art Museum and Gallery in Lymington and Lisa Kennedy Hair Care in Pennington on Thursday and Friday nights respectively, causing some damage in the process.

St Barbe’s alarm was set off when a window was smashed to gain access to the New Street attraction’s café area around 11.40pm last Thursday.

Several items of crockery were damaged and the offenders forced open a box in which funds are collected for the museum, which is a charity. They escaped with an unknown quantity of cash from inside it.

Museum director Maria Ragan expressed her disgust at what had happened, but stressed its prized collection of exhibits was never at risk as it is protected by shutter and alarm systems.

“St Barbe is a charity and it is so disappointing that individuals would stoop so low as to steal money generously donated by our loyal visitors,” she said.

Fortunately, the  funds had only recently been banked so the box would have contained a relatively small amount of cash at the time.

As police investigate the break-in, visitors and stakeholders are being assured that the museum’s security systems are constantly reviewed.

The hair salon’s back door was kicked in during last Friday night, and owner Lisa Kennedy told the A&T this followed three recent foiled attempts to break into the South Street premises.

“This was not just a one-off,” she said.

“The attempts had been made over the last six weeks when someone has attempted to get in through the back door. They’ve used screwdrivers and crowbars.

“This time they just entered through the back door with a big foot.”

Lisa was alerted to the incident when she received a phone call around 3pm on Saturday, telling her the back door was open. Arriving at the premises, she found it had been kicked in and the staff room immediately beyond it ransacked.

The internal door leading from there into the main salon area had also been kicked open and a search made in there too.

On this occasion, the intruders escaped with two collection boxes, one of which had been raising funds for a cancer charity supported by Tesco and the other was for the RNLI.

Lisa explained no money had been taken from the till, which staff leave open at the end of the day with the drawer on the counter to show that it is empty and takings are not kept there overnight.

“They were obviously after money,” she continued, partly attributing a spate of break-ins across the Lymington and Pennington area to a lack of police on the beat.

“I reckon a couple of hundred pounds is gone because we’ve been doing the Tesco one for the whole year.

“It’s disgusting. I’d like to think that the person who broke in needed it badly, but I don’t think it was that. I expect it was probably for drugs.

She continued: “It is getting worse in Lymington and Pennington. It would really be nice to see a community officer walking around the area every now and then because we don’t see so many of those around now. I used to see them when I first moved here about 10 years ago, although I do understand that there are cuts to the police service.”

Lisa stressed, however, that she had been satisfied with the force’s response to the raid which involved a forensics team being sent immediately to carry out a “thorough” sweep of the premises.

The day-to-day running of the salon was not affected by the break-in and it opened as normal on Monday morning.

“They didn’t cause any serious damage,” Lisa explained. “They just rummaged through the drawers and cupboards.

“The door is boarded up waiting for it to be replaced, but they won’t be getting in that way again.”

She added: “I feel sad that someone needs to break in, but that’s probably a way of life now, I hate to say. You hear more and more about break-ins.”

Anyone with information should contact Hampshire Police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44180429871 for the St Barbe raid or 44180431879 for the break-in at the salon. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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