Kent

Ashford cigarette raid 'could close down shop' says owner

The owner of a Kent convenience store targeted by robbers said he had lost so much stock he may have to close down.

Colin Priestley, who runs Stubbs Cross Post Office in Ashford, had £4,000 worth of cigarettes stolen in January.

He said there was about £2,000 worth of damage, and with the added concern of paying more for insurance he had to consider if it was "worth carrying on".

Kent police have been investigating a spate of such burglaries across the county since the start of the year.

'Soft target'

Last week, officers in north Kent released CCTV images of two men they wanted to question about 15 burglaries which targeted shops selling cigarettes.

They said nearly £30,000 worth of cigarettes had been stolen from stores between January and March.

Mr Priestley said raiders had smashed their way into his shop in the middle of the night as he slept upstairs.

"A small business like this can't afford to lose that amount of stock," he said.

"We've got insurance cover, but we didn't have the appropriate insurance cover to cover the whole loss."

'Financially damaging'

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said he believed the increase in cigarette raids was down to "tough economic times and the deception that convenience stores may be a softer target".

"It's an emotionally affecting crime as well as financially damaging.

"Where times are getting tougher, criminals are prepared to do more for less with greater violence."

Mr Lowman added that stolen cigarettes could "very quickly be turned into cash".

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