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Police under criticism for waiting 12 hours to tell public about Chantry burglary

PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:26 03 February 2016

The scene of the collision in Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich, yesterday.

The scene of the collision in Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich, yesterday.

Questions are being asked over why the public were not told about a serious firearms incident on Ipswich’s Chantry estate for 12 hours.

Three men forced their way into a house in Manchester Road at around 8.30pm on Monday and demanded money from the occupants, threatening them with a handgun.

The men then left the house, taking a quantity of cash and got away in what is described as a black BMW 1 Series towards Tesco, pursued by the victim.

The two vehicles were then involved in a collision on Hawthorn Drive, where the victim reported the offenders fired the gun before driving off. No one was injured.

A police cordon was put in place in Hawthorn Drive at the scene of the collision and alleged gunfire while officers searched for evidence of gunshots being fired.

The road was closed at the junction with Bridgwater Road until noon yesterday. Search teams did not find any casings or other evidence of gunfire.

Information about the incident was not released to the public until 9am yesterday, and councillors who represent the area said they were not contacted by police at all.

Ipswich borough councillor for the Sprites ward, Roger Fern, said he first learnt about the incident on Facebook yesterday morning.

He added: “I’m disappointed because it’s quite reasonable for local residents to think ‘I’ll ring Roger Fern and find out what’s going on’.

“It seems like a really regrettable incident and I have no idea of the cause, but if people are going around with firearms then that is very disturbing.”

Mr Fern said he attended a community lunch at a methodist church in Chantry yesterday and several residents were asking him what had happened, but he could only relay the information he read on social media.

He added: “I have lived here for 40 years and it is just completely out of the blue and I would like to think it’s a one-off incident.

“Judging by the number of police who were still there at 11.45am it is being treated as a very serious incident.”

Suffolk county councillor, Peter Gardiner, who represents the Chantry division, said he was concerned by the lack of communication from police.

He added: “It’s strange because in the past where there has been a similar incident I have received a call from police who have told me that they were investigating the case and there was no need for immediate alarm in the neighbourhood and looking at the news, I would have thought I would have had a similar call on this incident.

“Speaking as a county councillor, I have been contacted in the past and given reassurance that it was an one-off incident or not to be alarmed so if we are contacted by the public we can give them that message.”

Mr Gardiner said his fellow county councillor for the Chantry division, Helen Armitage, was also not contacted.

Bob Hall, Ipswich borough councillor for the Sprites ward, said: “It’s a shame that these people can threaten the lives of innocent people on this housing estate.

“The sooner these people are caught and dealt with in full extent of the law the better and safer it will be for ordinary, law-abiding residents.”

Detective Inspector Matthew Connick, of the Ipswich Criminal Investigation Department, said police were pursuing a number of lines of enquiry to identify the suspects.

He added: “I would like to reassure local residents that we are treating this as a serious isolated incident, which we believe to be targeted, and as such do not believe there is any threat to the wider community.

“Reports of hearing gunshots fired are understandably alarming, but we have not as yet found any proof that live ammunition was involved.”

Anyone who saw or heard anything that may assist police with their enquires, and in particular the black BMW, should contact Ipswich CID on 101 quoting reference 15452/16 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Why did it take so long? The police response

“This was a serious incident to which police were quick to respond, deploying armed response units to locate offenders and both response and CID officers to carry out enquiries and to ensure the victims were supported and kept safe. People living in the immediate vicinity were updated by officers at the scene.

“Public safety and protection is paramount and our officers regularly have to make critical decisions based on limited information, balancing public safety with preventing unnecessary panic and alarm.

“On this occasion, based on the information available at the time and with no known risk to the wider public, a decision was taken to issue a public appeal once the full facts were established.

“The incident is being treated as an isolated and targeted attack and a full investigation is underway.”

‘At no point was there a public safety issue’

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “Having been made aware of this situation this morning I immediately asked the deputy chief constable to update me on this issue. It is a critical part of my role as PCC to represent the public interest and provide reassurance whenever necessary.

“I have been reassured that the constabulary dealt with this incident effectively at the time and at no point was there a public safety issue although I appreciate communications about the incident could have been better.”

Description of the three male suspects

- Man one: black, 6ft tall, slim, aged in his mid 30s, with a beard and short Afro hair. He was wearing a high-visibility jacket

- Man two: mixed race, 5ft 9in – 5ft 10in tall, stocky, aged in his 20s. He was wearing a rolled-up balaclava covering his forehead and a black hooded top

- Man three: black and wearing a full balaclava

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