Belsize pizza parlour targeted by heartless thieves

BELSIZE village has been rocked after thieves plundered a safe containing thousands of pounds worth of staff wages from one of the area’s most popular pizza restaurants.

The audacious burglars smashed their way into Papa Del’s on Belsize Lane in the early hours of Monday morning – despite the eatery being a favourite with local police.

The break-in has sent shock waves through the normally quiet residential neighbourhood, which is home to stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Helena Bonham Carter.

Papa Del’s manager Ehsan Meteb said he was devastated by the burglary, which took place just minutes after he had locked up for the night.

“We closed at 12am on Sunday and I left at 1.40am. Five minutes later two men came along and broke the shutter and then smashed the glass.

“They stole the safe and damaged the counter and some equipment. The safe had �3,700 in it and that included staff wages and some of the payments for the delivery people who were coming the next day.

“The shop’s been there 32 years and we’ve never had any problem in this area. We’ve repaired what we could repair and we’ve started serving customers again.”

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But Mr Meteb said he and his staff have been buoyed by the overwhelming show of support from the scores of loyal customers who regularly eat at Papa Del’s.

He said: “We have a special relationship with the people around here and the non-stop calls from the local people trying to give their support after what happened is great.”

Roger Montgomery, who heads up Belsize Park’s neighbourhood watch, added: “It’s a real tragedy because they’re really hard-working people. For everyone who works there to lose their wages which were in the safe is just disgusting.”

Mr Montgomery said his group is now looking into the possibility of having CCTV cameras put up to deter thieves from striking again.

But Hampstead councillor Chris Knight said that while it was huge shame for a small business like Papa Del’s to lose such a large sum of money, it might be difficult to secure funding for CCTV in the current climate.

He said: “There have been some calls for CCTV, but with council budgets as they are at the moment it’s almost impossible for the council to fund it. The minimum it will cost to install even one camera is upwards of �25,000. What we urge is for some of the local shops to try to cover themselves with some form of CCTV.”

Police said the two male suspects are described as white and aged between 16 to 25. Both were wearing dark jackets and light coloured tracksuit trousers.

Detective Inspector Gary Randall said: “I can confirm that we are investigating a burglary which took place on Belsize Lane, I would urge anyone with information to call Camden police on 0300 123 1212 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”