Masked gang strikes again in St John's Wood

PUBLISHED: 11:04 27 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 07 September 2010

Josie Hinton TWO shops in St John s Wood have been targeted by a motorcycle gang sparking fears of another summer of woe for traders. Thieves wearing crash helmets used a sledgehammer to smash into Vadgama jewellers in St John s Wood High Street on Tuesda

Josie Hinton

TWO shops in St John's Wood have been targeted by a motorcycle gang sparking fears of another summer of woe for traders.

Thieves wearing crash helmets used a sledgehammer to smash into Vadgama jewellers in St John's Wood High Street on Tuesday afternoon in front of hordes of shocked bystanders.

Six people on three mopeds pulled up at around 3.15pm and smashed the display window before forcing their way in through the front door. They threatened staff with the sledgehammer and smashed display cabinets before escaping with more than £150,000 worth of jewellery.

The shocking raid took place just days after two men on mopeds escaped with more than £6,000 worth of stock from nearby designer clothes shop Square One in broad daylight, on Thursday last week.

Rami Anzoulides, who owns designer clothes shop Bruno, opposite the jewellers, was one of the scores of people who witnessed Tuesday's raid.

"Before I knew it there were three or four scooters with more than one person on each. The guys jumped off and smashed the window but broke in through the door and then they were inside," he said.

"They were in there a matter of 10 seconds before they came out carrying a blue hold all. There was a bystander who was trying to stop them get away but they just jumped on their bikes and away they went."

Gulsara Panis, also watching from across the street, added: "It looked well-planned. You couldn't see their faces because they were all wearing helmets.

"The drivers waited outside while their passengers went inside. It was just like an American film, everybody was just standing by in shock and then they just came out and drove off."

Gary Vanger, who owns Square One, said the gang were making a mockery out of the police.

"I've been hit nine times and each time it gets more violent. The police response has been rubbish. It's a waste of time.

"People will be too scared to come to St John's Wood. We're already struggling in the recession and this is putting me out of business. I can't even get full insurance anymore - I'm very vulnerable here." Following a spate of similar raids last year, traders were so terrified for their livelihoods they hired a round-the-clock private security guard. But following the onset of the recession, they were forced to end his contract in January.

Maureen Butterworth, who owns Tiddlywinks, said traders should not have to pay for their own safety.

"During the time the guard was here there was only one break-in on the high street," she said.

"The community police showed their faces and even the police came out. But as soon as the private security guard was gone you no longer saw any police presence on the street."

DS Stuart Parsons, of Westminster's crime squad, said: "This robbery took place in the middle of the afternoon in a busy street. I would like to hear from anyone who may have seen the incident taking place or has any information about those involved."

Anyone with any information should call 020-7321 9888 or 020-7321 5868.

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