AN organised gang has netted £120,000 of prams and washing machines in two “expert” raids in Wigan.
In both cases, they have broken into buildings next door to their target premises, then burrowed through the party wall, to steal industrial quantities of goods, which are driven away in a lorry.
One of the victims today said the intruders must have known an astonishing amount about the premises’ security arrangements, layout and work patterns in order to pull off the heist.
The first of the raids, which police say are strongly similar, took place in the early hours of August 29, at units at Amber Court, Martland Park.
Breaking into one building, they knocked through a breezeblock wall to get into Winstanley’s Pram World warehouse next door.
Scores of prams with an estimated value of £100,000 were taken away, in what is thought to be a white 7.5-tonne lorry.
Then between 1.15pm on September 23 and 7.50am on September 26, burglars broke into a unit belonging to Ric Harwood joiners on Makerfield Way, Higher Ince, in order to get into the adjoining unit, Pooles Domestics.
This time 100 washing machines to the value of £20,000 were stolen, and again loaded into a white 7.5-tonne truck.
All four units also suffered considerable damage.
Security has been stepped up at all the premises, and a second attempted raid on Makerfield Way the following Monday was thwarted by a new and more sophisticated alarm system.
Gary Walker, co-owner of Poole’s, said: “We were shocked at the way they got in.
“They must have been sussing everything out for some time and in some detail beforehand.
“They got in by jemmying open the business next door which, only had a bell alarm, which they disabled. Then they drove their lorry inside, pulled the shutters down and reset the alarm, so it wouldn’t alert anyone, then used a forklift to smash a hole through the dividing wall.
“They enlarged the hole by pulling out more bricks to exactly the right height to which the washing machines were stacked, then loaded them on the lorry.
“These were no amateur opportunists, these were experts. But Ric had a much more sophisticated alarm system put in straight afterwards, which was triggered when someone tried to break in again a week later. We have also had lots of CCTV installed.
“After something like this you just have to get on with and bring in as much stock as possible. We are still waiting for the insurance to sort out.”
A spokesman for Winstanley’s Pram World declined to comment.
Det Con Kevin Telford of Wigan CID said: “It is fair to say that the people were are looking for are professional and organised criminals.
“They have disarmed alarm systems and used various tools to break into the industrial units, and then knock through solid walls.
“These were well planned burglaries and I urge anyone who has overheard anyone talking about either incident, or knows anything about those responsible, to call police.
“All information will be treated in strict confidence.
“I would also like to hear from anyone who has been approached with a view to buying these items.
“Remember, if something appears too good to be true ,it most likely is, and anyone found to be in possession of stolen items could find themselves in serious trouble.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 5307, or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.