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Violent robbers target Belsize Park store

PUBLISHED: 08:25 16 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:30 07 September 2010

Budgens in Belsize Park

Budgens in Belsize Park

Ben McPartland Dim-witted robbers fled a Belsize Park supermarket empty-handed after posing as policemen to gain entry. The violent robbers, believed to be a gang of Eastern Europeans, conned their way into Haverstock Hill s up-market Budgens at 8am on Su

Ben McPartland

Dim-witted robbers fled a Belsize Park supermarket empty-handed after posing as policemen to gain entry.

The violent robbers, believed to be a gang of Eastern Europeans, conned their way into Haverstock Hill's up-market Budgens at 8am on Sunday by disguising themselves as police and banging on the doors.

A stunned member of staff was then pushed to the floor, handcuffed and had a bag put over his head. But the robbers blundered by locking him in an office with a telephone while they searched for the safe.

The 38-year-old victim simply called 999 and the robbers ran off when they realised their gaffe. They left penniless, except for taking the victim's wallet and car keys. "Thankfully nothing was taken and no one was badly injured. We will just have to be very wary now," said Budgens manager Andrew Thornton.

"If four policeman are shouting 'Open up the door' you think 'I better let them in'. They put our employee in handcuffs but it was a bit stupid to lock him in a room with a telephone.

"They were looking for the safe but we don't keep the safe keys on the premises anyway, so they would never have got in. It was a very distressing experience for the team member, though."

The member of staff, who is still off work recovering from his ordeal, was taken to the Royal Free Hospital suffering from bruising to his shoulder.

It is believed the robbers had been watching the store and knew the senior staff member would be alone at the time as the shop was not due to open until later that morning.

The robbers' tactic of wearing baseball caps printed with the words POLICE have left staff suspicious about people claiming to be from the authorities. "We will just have to be vigilant," said Mr Thornton. "These people will try every angle they can.

"We cannot automatically trust anyone - that is just the way it is. Police officers will have to show their badges in future, otherwise we will not let them in."

Staff at the shop were told by police that the unarmed gang is known to officers and have carried out similar raids in the past. No arrests have been made and enquiries are continuing.

A spokeswoman for Camden Police said: "We were called at 8.15am on Sunday following reports that a robbery had taken place. It was established that four males entered the premises and a 38-year-old male victim was restrained and had his wallet and car keys stolen."

Witnesses are urged to come forward to help police catch the gang. Call 020-7404 1212 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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