STAFF were terrorised by "four masked men wielding crowbars" who executed a raid on a North Baddesley convenience store.

The men terrorised two members of staff and a customer at The Co-operative Food, Seymour Lane, where they ripped out "three tills and stole a number of cigarette packets".

Now a resident who was caught up in the crime has spoken of his horror after the gang entered the convenience store at approximately 8.20pm on Wednesday

Charity director, Andy Lester, said: "It was a very surreal experience and the thing that went through my head was 'is this my time'.

"I went into the store to have a chat with the staff and then four masked men wielding crowbars came in and dragged one the staff members to the back of the store.

"The other staff member was in the corner cowering behind the till and the men threatened to kill both of them.

"They ripped all three tills out, stole a number of cigarette packets and smashed up the front of the store.

"I think there was a safe as well and they went off with a fair amount of money."

The 46-year-old from North Baddesley added: "I was backed against the wall when the first guy came in and I did not know whether he was going to hit me or not.

"They were all males in their twenties, dressed in black and three of them were in the store, while the other one was in a white van outside.

"They had a London accent and did the raid very professionally; when they were taking things outside they could not care less who saw them.

"Once they loaded everything into the van and tried to drive away we chased the van up the road, but they were fast and as we couldn't catch up with the van I am not sure what use we would have been."

Andy said he "stayed with the staff" following the incident to give them "support".

He added the staff "acted professionally" in an incident that "could have been really violent".

Police arrived on the scene approximately "15 minutes" after the alarm was raised, according to Andy.


A staff member of a neighbouring business on Seymour Lane said: “One customer came in and said four nippers jumped out of a van – they thought it was weird that the van was pulled up with all the doors open.

“They pulled up further along the road then drove outside the Co-Op when jumping out.”

Another member of staff added: “It is such a shame its happened again – it sounded quite nasty, they had crowbars and everything.”

A spokesperson from Southern Co-op said: "We are working closely with Hampshire Constabulary and would urge anyone with information relating to this incident to come forward and speak to the police.

"It is a sad fact that incidents such as these occur across the country and affect the whole retail sector.

"As a locally-owned co-operative, we are working towards combating the causes of incidents such as these as they clearly have an impact on our colleagues as well as the community."

They added: "We will be continuing to offer support to our local colleagues and we'd like to thank the wider community for their support and understanding during this difficult time. 

“We are still assessing the full extent of the damage but are hoping to reopen the store later on today.”

A spokesperson from Hampshire Constabulary said: "We are investigating a report of a robbery at the Co-op store in Seymour Lane, North Baddesley.

"It took place sometime between 8.05pm and 8.20pm on Wednesday, November 13.

"It was reported that three men with crow bars entered the store and stole cigarettes and cash.

"No injuries were reported. An investigation is now underway."

They added: "Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting the crime reference number 44190408672."