'It only took four minutes for them to get in and out'
Smash and grab raiders target cigarettes, cash and phones
Two suspects were in custody at Wicklow Garda Station yesterday (Tuesday) in connection with a series of smash and grab raids on businesses in the area. The men were arrested as part of Operation Thor and were being questioned in relation to burglaries across Wicklow and in North Wexford.
Gardaí said that they were operating on the assumption that raids on the Eir Store on Wicklow's Main Street and XL Stores in Rathnew and Redcross, as well as a filling station in Gorey were linked. In each case, the thieves smashed their way into the stores, caused major damage and, in the case of the XL stores, made off with cash and cigarettes.
Gardaí stated that the spree began with the men forcing entry into a filling station in Gorey shortly after 2 a.m. before hitting the stores at Redcross, Rathnew and, finally, the Eir store in Wicklow town, where a number of valuable mobile phones were taken.
The Garda Air Support Unit was subsequently called in and, with assistance from Special Crime Operations and units from Dublin, a car was intercepted in the Bawnogue area of west Dublin. Two men in their 20s were arrested at the scene following a chase on foot and both men were detained yesterday at Wicklow Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.
The car involved in the incident has been removed for forensic examination and a large quantity of cigarettes along with phones, sim cards and other property were recovered from the car. It is believed that gardaí are hoping to make further arrests.
At the XL Stop & Shop in Rathnew, manager James Newsome said that they had been 'cleaned out' after the gang got through the shutters and gained access to the store.
'They got in and got all the cigarettes and some cash,' he said yesterday morning. 'They wrecked the place as well. We have some CCTV footage of the incident and the gardaí came and analysed that. We had a garda forensic team in until about 10 a.m. but we've cleaned up and we're open for business again now thankfully.'
Mr Newsome stated that the raiders gained access to the premises shortly after 3.30 a.m. and it appeared that 'two or three' people were involved as they stripped the place. 'It seems they knew what they were doing alright,' he added.
It was a similar case at Browne's XL in Redcross where owner Vincent Browne said that four men in balaclavas and boiler suits took just four minutes to break in, ransack the place and leave with cigarettes and cash.
'They knew exactly what they were at,' a dejected Mr Browne said. 'They smashed the big window in the front and came in that way. It only took them four minutes to get in and out. They came in at 1.49 a.m. and were gone by 1.53 a.m. They got more out of it than you or I would from a night's work!'
Speaking late yesterday morning, Mr Browne said that the Redcross store was still close as gardaí carried out forensic examinations, however, he hoped to return to some sort of normality in the afternoon.
'Hopefully we'll be back up and running by the afternoon,' he said. 'It's a major inconvenience not only for us, but for our customers. It's the only shop in the village and people are depending on us.'
While it was positive news that suspects had been arrested in relation to the raids, the store owners are left counting the cost as they sift through the damage caused and attempt to resume trading.