Fears of publicans after raid

IPSWICH publicans have spoken of their fears of being in the "front line" for armed gangs after three masked raiders made off with £17,000.

IPSWICH publicans have spoken of their fears of being in the "front line" for armed gangs after three masked raiders made off with £17,000.

Some landlords have seen their insurance premiums doubled as brokers crack down on sites at risk from out-of-town gangs using the A12 and A14 for a speedy getaway.

One line of inquiry the police were said to be pursuing after Tuesday's raid on the Belstead Arms in Radcliffe Drive, Ipswich was that the armed robbery – and one on a Clacton pub two hours later – were masterminded by a central gang.

Landlady of The Falcon, Rushmere, Cynthia Nolan, said: "It's certainly very worrying for publicans.

"They could target pubs on the outskirts of town. We are aware that we have to be vigilant."

The Playford Road publican said in the last year she had seen her insurance premiums double to £1,000. She recently lost hundreds of pounds when out-of-town crooks targeted her gaming machines.

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Paul Lovett, landlord of the Kingfisher, near the Belstead Arms, has had two break-ins at his Hawthorn Drive pub since he took over the licence six months ago.

He said: "You can feel like you are in the front line.

"We recently carried out renovations to make the windows more secure."

Mr Lovett planned to discuss greater security with the brewery's head office in the wake of the weekend's armed robbery.

About a mile away is Harley's, where barmaid Janet Fleming was beaten to death during a robbery on December 10, 2000. The 38-year-old was attacked as she returned to the Stoke Park pub on hearing a commotion shortly after leaving to go home.

PJ McGinty's in Northgate Street, Ipswich, already has CCTV cameras.

Landlord Michael Collins believes extra vigilance is the best course for publicans.

He said: "You have to check the place is secure before you lock up. Make sure there's no one in the toilets and be careful of anyone suspicious."

Val Cocks, landlady at The Belstead Arms, today described what one of the three masked men who held her and her partner up at knifepoint was wearing.

She said: "All three had Irish accents, though one was stronger than the others. One of them was wearing navy tracksuit bottoms with a white strip or V on the front of them."

Mystery surrounds how the gang made their getaway after they failed to start publican Kevin Watkin's car due to its immobiliser.

Police are urging shift workers or early morning joggers who might have seen anything suspicious in the Radcliffe Drive area at just after 4.30am to contact Detective Sergeant Duncan Sheppard on 01473 613500.