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Armed raid horror for Ipswich couple

PUBLISHED: 19:00 05 June 2002 | UPDATED: 15:27 03 March 2010

BANK Holiday fun turned to terror for an Ipswich publican and his partner held up in their bedroom by a gang of knife-wielding raiders.

Kevin Watkins and his partner Val Cocks were woken with a knife at their throats when three masked men broke into the Belstead Arms in the early hours yesterday .

BANK Holiday fun turned to terror for an Ipswich publican and his partner held up in their bedroom by a gang of knife-wielding raiders.

Kevin Watkins and his partner Val Cocks were woken with a knife at their throats when three masked men broke into the Belstead Arms in the early hours yesterday .

The balaclava-clad raiders, all with Irish accents, tied the couple's hands behind their backs before making off with record bank holiday takings of £17,000.

Included in the haul from the Radcliffe Drive pub was £725 raised over the jubilee for Beacon Hill special school and £1,200 Christmas club money.

Victims say police believe the robbery, the first of two similar attacks on pubs in the area, may have been masterminded by one gang.

Just two hours later, the manageress of a Clacton pub used her nose to dial 999 after she and another staff member were gagged and tied.

Three men armed with a handgun, this time with London accents, threatened staff at the Roaring Donkey before making off with a "substantial amount" of takings.

In Ipswich, Mrs Cocks, remains deeply traumatised by the attack.

She and partner Kevin were woken at just after 2.30am by a masked man brandishing a knife at her throat and shining a torch in their faces.

She said: "I was still half asleep. Neither of us had any clothes on. They made us get out of bed, letting me wear a dressing gown, they kept swearing at us and asking where the key to the safe was.

"They pulled all the bedroom drawers out. Then they frog marched me on to the landing and Kevin downstairs.

"They forced me back into the bedroom and made me lie face down on the bed, tying my hands behind my back.

"The man with the knife was very agitated. I have no doubt that if we hadn't gone along with their requests they would have used the knife."

She said: "After it happened I was a complete mess. I still can't eat anything and I have terrible back ache from when they held me down on the bed."

Mr Watkins, 45, a publican for eight years, is so shaken by the harrowing ordeal he is contemplating quitting the trade.

He said: "You see these things in the movies but when it happens to you, you cannot imagine the terror. I was petrified. I am still absolutely devastated. I'm even finding it difficult going back up the stairs. Can you imagine being tied up naked and frog-marched downstairs by a man sticking a knife at your throat?"

He went on: "We had had such a wonderful weekend, a barbecue and then a disco in the evening. We had about 150 people and there was such a sense of community spirit. This could not have been a worse end. It is my worst nightmare come true."

Forensics experts spent more than six hours on bank holiday Tuesday combing the couple's ransacked home and checking the upstairs toilet window where the raiders got in.

Mrs Cocks, said: "They went from the toilet into the bathroom and opened the window. They put all the toiletries on the roof so as not to make a noise when they let the others in."

The alarm was eventually raised by Mrs Cocks' 19-year-old son, asleep on the premises, who rang police on his mobile after he saw one of the raiders leaving.

The six-inch kitchen knife used in the attack was later found by police on the roof.

After stealing the takings, the gang demanded the keys to Mr Watkin's car, locked with an immobiliser.

Mr Watkins said: "In the end I would have given them everything just to keep Val and the family safe. They could have asked me for world and I would have given it to them. When it comes to it, you aren't so brave when you are naked, tied up and someone with a knife is threatening to kill you."

He said: "The regulars that have heard about it have been fantastic. Some have even offered us money. We are going open up as soon as possible because we have to earn all that money back again, somehow. The police have also been wonderful."

The raid is similar to the one in Clacton though the description of the raiders' accents differ.

Masked men in Clacton forced the pub manageress downstairs at 4.30am and ordered her to open the safe and hand over takings.

She and her colleague were tied up and gagged in separate rooms before the raiders made off with a "substantial amount" of cash.

Detective Sergeant Martin Brough of Clacton police, said: "This has been a horrifying experience for these people who have still not come to terms with their ordeal."

The three robbers in the Clacton raid are described as white about 5ft 8in, aged 18-25 and spoke with London accents. One wore a balaclava, navy tracksuit and white trainers.

A second fair-haired robber wore dark clothing and the third was stocky, clean-shaven and wore a baseball cap and dark bomber jacket.

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