St Albans jeweller fought back against raider
A ST ALBANS jeweller, angry after suffering yet another attempted robbery, turned have-a-go-hero to stop a thief in his tracks by thumping him over the head with a blunt instrument.
Jewellery designer Christopher Wharton was at the back of his shop, Wharton Goldsmith, before 10am last Thursday (July 26) when a man started smashing a side window with a sledgehammer, making the historic building shake.
Security camera footage later revealed the man, who had parked a motorbike opposite the family business on George Street and walked into the alleyway next to it, struck 10 blows on the tough anti-bandit glass with a large sledgehammer.
Alerted by his wife, Catherine, on the shop floor just metres behind the window, Christopher grabbed a large wooden implement and dashed out of the front door to stop the man.
He struck the motorcyclist’s helmet, halting only when a woman from a neighbouring shop told him to stop.
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Christopher said: “I hit him to try and get him off his bike. It didn’t work but he would have had a big headache.”
The man then fled downhill on his motorbike, which had no registration number, along George Street.
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Christopher said staff had noticed a man walking in front of the shop in a helmet and had been keeping an eye on him as the shop has been subjected to “at least” six attempted and successful robberies in as many years.
He added: “They think they can come here and steal what we worked hard for all our lives. My father and my brother [both jewellers] in St Albans never experienced major robberies, and it’s just getting worse.
“You do feel very angry.”
In 2006 a gang of robbers armed with a handgun threatened to kill terrified staff before escaping with watches worth �180,000, and in 2008 a number of Rolex watches were swiped from the store.
In Thursday’s attempted robbery the structure of the building, Elizabethan in parts, was damaged during the attack.
Christopher commended the police for their speedy response, adding that they arrived “within moments of being called”.
He also thanked others – passers-by and staff from neighbouring shops – who also came to his aid and challenged the man.
Police were alerted just before 9.50am to the brazen smash-and-grab attempt. They are still appealing for witnesses.
Dc Lee Stuart, from the Local Crime Unit in St Albans, said: “I am particularly keen to trace a male described as a construction worker, who was seen to challenge the offender directly – he may have information that can help our investigation.
“I am also keen to speak to anyone who lives in the Batchwood or Oysterfields area who may have seen the rider park the bike there before the offence took place.”
The man was described as wearing motorbike clothing and riding a dark-coloured sports-style motorbike.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Dc Stuart via the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers, the independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.