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Hampstead ‘paying price for police station closure’ after gunpoint robbery

17:00 06 March 2014

Tesco Express in Heath Street. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Tesco Express in Heath Street. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

An armed robbery on a supermarket proves that Hampstead is already “paying the price” for the closure of its police station, it was claimed this week.

Campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui said the gunpoint raid at Tesco in Heath Street on Friday morning shows that the “ill-considered” decision to close century-old Hampstead police station, in Rosslyn Hill, is already having a major impact.

The robbery has sparked fresh calls for the reopening of the police station, which was axed last June but has yet to be sold by the Met.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, head of the Hampstead Shops Campaign and chairman of the Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, said: “It’s shocking – we need our station back. We have not seen this level of crime before in Hampstead and it’s extremely worrying.

“The loss of the police station is fuelling a higher incidence of crime in the area.

“Hampstead is paying the price for the ill-considered decision to kill the police station where we had a police presence for the past hundred years.”

The gunman struck at about 6.45am on Friday, pulling out what appeared to be a large firearm and aiming it at terrified staff at the supermarket.

One cashier reportedly collapsed to the floor in shock after being told to hand over money or be shot. Colleagues said the man was so traumatised he sought medical help afterwards and has not returned to work.

Another Tesco worker was counting cash from the self-service machines when the robber came into the store at about 6.45am.

“Suddenly he came to the checkout and he took the gun out,” she said. “It was quite long and thick and he pointed it at my colleague and said: “I want the money, otherwise I’ll shoot you. My colleague just fell down on the floor, he was so scared. Everyone was scared.”

The woman, who was too upset to be named, said the ordeal lasted more than 10 minutes.

She said the man was “waving the weapon around and pointing it at everyone”.

Unable to get all the tills open, the robber eventually fled with about £1,400 of coins from the self-service checkouts, with some tobacco and a bottle of alcohol.

Tesco has now changed its opening time from 6am to 7am so staff do not have to count cash with the doors open.

The cashier added: “I have worked in Hampstead since 1998 and it’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this.”

Met Police Flying Squad officers have issued an appeal for witnesses.

The robber is white, about 6ft, and was wearing a dark green hoodie and a black hat. He ran off towards Hampstead Tube station.

n Anyone with information should call 020 8785 8655 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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