Shop owner's misery as stock stolen

A DEVASTATED shop-owner is today picking up the pieces of his business after thieves stole his van and left him on a roadside in Essex.

A DEVASTATED shop-owner is today picking up the pieces of his business after thieves stole his van and left him on a roadside in Essex.

Chaminda Delgahawattegedara, opened CK Food and Wine, in Bramford Road, Ipswich, just five months ago but a run of bad fortune has left him nearly £20,000 out of pocket.

In the latest cruel twist, the shop owner was duped into pulling his van full of stock to the side of a road in Barking by two men claiming to be CID officers.

He said: “I'd been to three or four Cash & Carry's that day to get all the stock I needed to fill the shelves at the shop.

“I was making my way home and was about 200 metres from the last store, sitting at a set of traffic lights, when I heard a knock on my back window.”

Mr Delgahawattegedara was then asked by a man claiming to be a CID officer if he would pull over and step out of his vehicle because the bottom of the van was giving off sparks.

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He said: “That's when another man stepped out of a small white van with gloves on and a screwdriver in his hand. He forced open the side door of my van and they had a look inside. The first man said he was going to try to raise the van and got into the drivers seat. Then they both drove off.”

The thieves had stolen his van which carried his credit card, driving licence and satellite navigation system, not to mention £6,000 of stock and a further £4,000 in cash.

Left with just £3 in his pocket, Mr Delgahawattegedara's went to ask for help at a nearby tyre shop.

He said: “I told them my van had been taken and they said it had happened several times before. They even described the same scenario before I told them how it had been stolen.”

To add insult to injury, Mr Delgahawattegedara's taxi ride home cost him £120.

The theft came just two months after hundreds of pounds of stock was taken when his shop was broken into.

He said: “I suppose it might just be bad luck but it's going to be very hard. I have a mortgage to pay and all the time I am losing money.”

A Barking and Dagenham police spokeswoman said the force had launched an operation in a bid to track the thieves, who are believed to be responsible for a spate of similar thefts.

She said: “We are actively working on this. It has happened two to three times in the last few weeks alone.

“We've got CCTV down there and we're trying to raise awareness with the customers.

“We're working on several leads at the moment.”

Have you been the victim of a similar crime? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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