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Increasing dangers of post office staff

PUBLISHED: 10:49 05 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:52 03 March 2010

EVERY day, post office workers wake up in the knowledge that they might be the next ones to be staring down the barrel of a gun.

JESSICA NICHOLLS looks at the ever increasing dangers they face while trying to provide a service to their communities.

EVERY day, post office workers wake up in the knowledge that they might be the next ones to be staring down the barrel of a gun.

JESSICA NICHOLLS looks at the dangers they face while trying to provide a service to their communities.

IT is never far from the minds of post office staff that at any minute of the day they might be thrown into a terrifying situation where their lives could be put at risk for the sake of the money in the till.

In the last year Consignia has spent more than £20million on reviewing and putting in place new security measures.

It seems that at last those measures are working as today two Felixstowe postmistresses are considering what could have happened to them if certain security measures had not been put in place.

The quick thinking 51-year-old and 61-year-old ducked behind the counter of the post office in Beach Station Road when they spotted a balaclava clad man walking into the shop.

In a terrifying attack the raider, armed with what appeared to be a double barrelled shot gun, shouted at the women, demanded money and struck the reinforced glass barrier with the butt of the gun.

While the pair cowered beneath the counter calling the police, above them the security glass shattered but mercifully did not break.

A few moments later the raider ran from the shop in the direction of Pretyman Road and Tacon Road – from there no-one knows where he went.

Just one month ago another postmistress from Great Thurlow near Haverhill was the victim of an armed robbery but thwarted their attempts by pressing the alarm button and they fled within seconds of entering the store.

Jon Richardson is secretary of the National Federation of Sub postmasters, runs Brunswick Road post office and is well aware of what can happen each time he goes to work.

He said: "It is never far from your mind and you are always on your guard and being vigilant.

"Things have not got any worse around here lately and thankfully it is not a major problem for the area at the moment.

"Hopefully they will catch this person soon and it was just a one off."

But several years ago it was a completely different story for post office workers following a spate of raids across the county.

In March 2000, brothers Richard and Roy Loveridge were jailed for life after carrying out an armed raid at the Trimley Post Office and Stores in High Road, Trimley.

The pair grabbed a 15-year-old girl off the street to use as a hostage before storming into the shop and demanding cash.

When staff sounded the alarm they fled empty handed but were eventually tracked down by police.

Following their sentencing it was revealed that the pair had been jailed previously for two other post office hold ups.

At the time of the court case, Fay Stennett, the owner of the store, said: "I hope this will be a deterrent to others who are thinking about raiding post offices.

"Village post offices are already under threat and we can all do without this."

In 1999, the problem had become so bad that following a spate of raids within an 18 month period sparked off a series of security inspections by the Post Office (now Consignia).

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring demanded that the Post Office do something about security following a series of attacks on people in his constituency.

A spokeswoman of Consignia said following the Felixstowe attack that security was constantly being reviewed.

She said: "The safety of our staff is paramount and we have spent £20million on security improvements.

"We don't have lists as to why people leave us but that (the raids) probably is an influence on them."

Mr Richardson said that for some people, having been attacked is just too much for them and they leave.

He said: "It is very frightening and really shakes people up, particularly if they are elderly people."

But he added that it is not just post offices that are at risk and in recent years, shops and garages also seem to be targets.

He said: "It is a big worry for a lot of business people that are handling cash.

"Everywhere you are, if you are handling money you are vulnerable."

Counselling is always offered to staff who have been involved in an attack regardless of its severity.

Mr Richardson said: "I feel so sorry for people who have had this happen to them.

"Having spoken to a lot of people I know what a trauma it is for them."

AMONG THE OTHER POST OFFICE ATTACKS IN SUFFOLK SINCE 1998 ARE:

1. SEPTEMBER 1998 – A raider wearing a motorcycle helmet bursts into Post Office and Co-op store in Annis Hill, Bungay and threatens three members of staff with what is believed to be a sawn off shotgun. He was also linked to a previous raid in Norfolk the day before.

2. NOVEMBER 1998 – A shotgun brandishing trio burst into the Ulster Avenue post office, Ipswich threatening staff and escaping with cash.

3. JANUARY 1999 – Two raiders storm into Meachams, Wolsey Road in Stowmarket threatening staff with a sawn off shotgun and baseball bat before escaping with cash.

4. MAY 1999 – Three masked men raid Hawthorn Drive post office but came away empty handed.

5. MAY 1999 – Masked robbers wielding an iron bar and a firearm burst into Barton Mills post office near Mildenhall pushing a terrified assistant to the floor before fleeing with cash.

6. DECEMBER 1999 – Two men burst into Glemsford post office brandishing an imitation shotgun and a crow bar before smashing a counter window and threatening a member of staff. Alfie Smith, 22 of Colchester and Albey Loveridge of Bedford were later jailed for nine years for their part in the robbery.

7. DECEMBER 2000 – Three masked men armed with metal bars and a baseball bat entered a village post office at Fornham All Saints, Bury St. Edmunds before smashing a glass screen at the counter and demanding postmaster, Paul Martin, open the safe.

8. JANUARY 2001 – A Risby postmistress is threatened by three men with a crowbar who made her open the safe before escaping in a getaway car.


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