EXCLUSIVE: Police back at troubled Co-op branch as "crowbar" robbers strike again


POLICE are back at a troubled Co-op branch after robbers reportedly struck again just weeks after an earlier raid. (Main image: Jordan Ellis)

Several Essex Police vehicles and officers (pictures above and below) are currently (9.20pm) outside the branch in Lawling Avenue, Heybridge, near Maldon, Essex, tonight (November 17).

Cigarettes were seen dropped (below) in nearby Avocet Way at around 8.20pm after the robbers allegedly made off, according to locals.

The last robbery happened on October 6 when raiders armed with an axe and a crowbar struck.

Within days the Co-op resumed private security patrols of the stores and others in the Maldon area, with these security officers snapped (below) talking to people outside the branch three days later on October 9.

Then, five days later on October 14, a man was seen fitting a new security camera (below) outside the branch.

This did not deter a group of yobs who trashed the area, throwing bins and rubbish about (pictured below) outside the store in the early hours of Sunday, October 24.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "We were called to reports of a group of people acting suspiciously outside an address in Lawling Avenue, Maldon at around 2.20am on Sunday, October 24.

"Officers attended and detained two people. On further inspection no damage was identified and entry hadn’t been gained to the premises. No arrests were made."

On the latest incident, the spokeswoman added: "We are investigating after a Co-op shop was robbed by three men on Wednesday evening (November 17).

"We were called to Lawling Avenue, in Heybridge, shortly before 8.10pm.

"The suspects, who all had their faces covered, threatened staff with a crowbar and a hammer and fled with a quantity of cash and cigarettes.

"They left the area in a grey BMW which did not have a registration plate on it.

"Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported by those in the store at the time.

Units attended the scene but no arrests have been made and our enquiries are continuing at pace. The investigation is being led by detectives in Chelmsford and Maldon CID.

"At this stage, they are examining whether this incident is linked to previous robberies at this premises and other Co-op premises."

Chief Inspector Rob Huddleston, of the North Local Policing Area, said: “I understand this incident will be naturally causing concern within the community.

“We have had officers working through the night to establish the circumstances behind the robbery and to closely examine the similarities between this incident and other live investigations.

“There will be an increased policing presence in the area today and in the coming days.”

He added: “We would also like anyone with doorbell or dashcam footage of the Lawling Avenue and Glebe Road areas to come forward and speak to us if they have not already done so.

“Likewise, if anyone witnessed this incident but has yet to speak to us, please come forward.”

A spokesman for the East of England Co-op, said: “I can confirm that an armed robbery took place at our Lawling Avenue store and that as a precaution, we advised our nearby Wood Road store to close, with our security team in attendance.

“We’re supporting our colleagues involved in this distressing incident and are working closely with the police who are taking these incidents incredibly seriously.

"If anyone knows anything we ask that they please contact the police or Crimestoppers anonymously. Only by working together can we bring these perpetrators to justice.”

Anyone with information, pictures or footage of the incident should call us on 101 and cite incident 1015 of November 17.

You can also submit a report online at https://www.essex.police.uk or use the 'Live Chat' button to speak to an online operator between 7am-11pm.

Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

(Other pictures by Shell B.)