Victim hides in wardrobe

PUBLISHED: 13:58 11 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

A TERRIFIED Suffolk antiques lover has told how she feared for her life and shut herself in a wardrobe as burglars raided her luxury home in the heart of Lovejoy country.

A TERRIFIED Suffolk antiques lover has told how she feared for her life and shut herself in a wardrobe as burglars raided her luxury home in the heart of Lovejoy country.

Vivienne Horrigan spoke of the horrifying moments she disturbed the gang helping themselves to more than £30,000-worth of antique ornaments and furniture from her home.

Mrs Horrigan said she was so frightened after discovering the burglars in her house that she hid in a wardrobe for 20 minutes until they left.

"I was absolutely terrified, I thought my life was at risk because the intruders obviously knew what they wanted and the value of the goods, so there was a lot at stake for them. I am still in shock and haven't eaten properly," she added.

The break-in comes just months after police warned a gang of professional antique burglars was operating in the area following a spate of raids on shops and homes in Long Melford, Clare, Sudbury and Great Waldingfield.

Since May last year about £100,000-worth of rare and valuable items have been taken in at least five raids in the area known as Lovejoy country after the books and television series featuring the roguish antiques dealer.

The burglars broke into Mrs Horrigan's Long Melford house after cutting through a pane of glass in a downstairs window. They then selected about 100 antique ornaments and pieces of furniture from three rooms.

Mrs Horrigan said she had been awoken by a loud thump at about 5am and sneaked downstairs to find one of the gang in the drawing room.

"When I opened the door, I saw the man calmly taking items off the shelf. Luckily, he had his back to me so I was able to creep back upstairs. I managed to dial 999, but I was so shaken-up that I cut myself off," she recalled.

"By this time I was so scared, I hid in my bedroom wardrobe and shut the door. I was in there for about 20 minutes, but it seemed like an hour, my heart was pumping furiously. Eventually the police turned up, but the burglars had disappeared without trace."

Their haul included a large Serpentine walnut card table, 29 rare silver and ivory mounted walking sticks, one of which belonged to a girlfriend of Edward VII, three expensive art-deco figurines, a bowl valued at £2,000, clocks, vases, chairs and tables.

Mrs Horrigan's husband Mike said: "The raiders must have known what type of stuff was here because they were very professional - they knew exactly what to take and what to leave.

"Everything that was stolen was carefully selected for its value, which means whoever is responsible must have a good knowledge of antiques. We think there must have been a few of them because the amount of stuff that was taken."

The couple said the ordeal had put them off collecting antiques, a pastime they have enjoyed over the past 20 years.

Suffolk police said they believed a gang of professional burglars was behind the raid on the Horrigan's home, which happened on Thursday.

Detective Constable James Nicholl, of Sudbury police, said: "Due to the quantity of items taken, we feel it is likely there was more than one offender and that they used a van to remove the items."

Anyone with information about the burglary should contact Det Con Nicholl on 01284 774350 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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