PICTURES: String of burglaries by axe-wielding masked men in Norfolk and Suffolk

Damage done by the raiders at Stanton Village Hall ANL-160609-104059001
Damage done by the raiders at Stanton Village Hall ANL-160609-104059001

Norfolk and Suffolk Police suspect raids on community centres in both counties by axe-wielding masked men are linked.

On Friday night and early Saturday morning three community halls in Norfolk and two in Suffolk were broken into and cash and alcohol were stolen.

Damage done by the raiders at Stanton Village Hall ANL-160609-104112001

Damage done by the raiders at Stanton Village Hall ANL-160609-104112001

Police were first called to Great Ellingham Village Hall, in Watton Road, shortly before 11.45pm on Friday night to reports of a burglary.

Up to four men wearing masks and carrying what are believed to be axes confronted two people outside the hall.

They caused damage to the hall and a car before making off in a dark coloured car towards the Attleborough area.

It is not known if anything was stolen at this time. No-one was injured.

Officers were then called at 11.53pm to reports of four men breaking into East Harling Sports and Social Club. The building was unoccupied at the time, but gaming machines were damaged and an unknown quantity of cash was stolen.

At about 20 past midnight the alarm was set off across the county border at Stanton Village Hall,

Hall committee member Jim Thorndyke said: “They caused considerable damage to locked doors in the hall, smashed the television with a blow from an axe, raided the bar and removed a quantity of alcohol and left at 00.25, turning right in the direction of Harleston.

“The damage to the hall caused the cancellation of Stanton FC’s game on Saturday due to damage to changing room doors.”

Suffolk Police said: “The suspects, believed to be four men wearing balaclavas, left the scene in what is thought to be a dark coloured Vauxhall Vectra.”

At 1.30am Saturday police were called to a burglary at the Shotford Bowls Club in Spirketts Lane, Harleston.

The premises was broken into and an unknown quantity of cash was taken from a coffee machine.

Then, 50 minutes later at Mendlesham Community Centre on Old Station Road someone forced entry to the building and made untidy search, damaging some wooden shutters but is not believed to have stolen anything.

Norfolk Detective Sergeant Mark Glister said: “I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone who may have seen four males acting suspiciously in a dark coloured car in the Great Ellingham, East Harling and Harleston areas between the times stated.

“I would also ask residents to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to police on 101 or dial 999 if you believe a crime is in progress.”

Anyone with information on the Norfolk burglaries should contact Thetford CID on 101. For the Suffolk raids call Suffolk police on 101 quoting 53390/16 for Stanton or 53414/16 for Mendlesham.

Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.