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‘Soul destroying’: Highgate family business loses up to £4,000 in Christmas tree heist

PUBLISHED: 16:30 13 December 2019

Joe Paley, left, and sister Emma in the yard the Christmas trees were snatched from last week. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Joe Paley, left, and sister Emma in the yard the Christmas trees were snatched from last week. Picture: Hannah Somerville

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A long-standing Christmas tree business has vowed to fight back after a gang of opportunist thieves ransacked their wares.

The family business at the Woodman sells hundreds of trees in the pivotal two weeks before Christmas. Picture: Hannah SomervilleThe family business at the Woodman sells hundreds of trees in the pivotal two weeks before Christmas. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Two local families have sold Christmas trees together from the garden of The Woodman Pub at Highgate tube station for the past nine years.

For the first time in the group's history, on the night of Wednesday, December 4 the firm suffered a break-in from thieves who made off with around 20 trees.

Staff returned the next morning to find the back gate hanging open, a pile of smashed wood and a gaping hole where dozens of expensive Nordman fir trees had been.

Site manager Joe Paley told the Ham&High: "We'd spent 13 hours the previous day sorting out a delivery and lugging in these huge, eight- to 10-foot trees into the back garden.

"They've stolen a lot in revenues and we're going to need to work hard to replace our wages and get our money back.

"This is a big hit. We're not used to getting stolen from; you feel a bit violated.

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"Whoever is responsible isn't getting a visit from Santa for a very long time. "

Colleague Daniel Sparks added "We're just going to have to work even harder to make it back."

Police were called on Thursday, November 5. The case was closed on the same day due to a lack of evidence, as The Woodman's CCTV did not cover that part of the garden.

Since the incident management at the pub have bought a new camera that covers the outside area and a small amount of barbed wire has been put up.

The thieves, staff believe, must have had a van in order to make off with such a huge haul. The company normally sells several hundred Christmas trees a week during the peak fortnight, and bosses said they thought the value of the theft was around £4,000.

This year they had also committed to raising a cheque equal to 10 per cent of profits for charities, and to keep the business carbon-neutral.

Mr Paley, who is originally from Hampstead and now lives in Hackney, said: "We're a family-run business with combined experience of more than 20 years, and we do this because we love it. We love having the customers here and talking to them.

"We're going to keep fighting and spreading the Christmas joy."


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