St Albans teen caught in Brent Cross smash and grab raid ordeal
PUBLISHED: 06:20 08 November 2012 | UPDATED: 10:24 08 November 2012
A SHOCKED St Albans teenager watched in horror as a gang on motorbikes carried out a dramatic smash and grab raid at Brent Cross shopping centre on Tuesday.
Nineteen-year-old Tom Norman, who lives in Wheathampstead, arrived with his mum at the north London centre just a quarter of an hour before the brazen robbery at Fraser Hart jewellers.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said they were called shortly after 10.15am on November 6 to reports that six suspects travelling on three motorbikes rode into the shopping centre, via the entrance near New Look.
Tom said it was a stroke of luck that he and his mum had decided to stop for a coffee at John Lewis, as they would have been in the path of the robbers at the time they rode onto the first floor.
Shortly afterwards Tom saw the first motorbike being driven inside, carrying two people: “We were sitting above and could see them going down the pedestrian aisle. I thought it was some sort of show at first.
“I was having a coffee with my mum on the balcony of John Lewis when the bikes appeared.
“People started running for their lives, and the shutters came down on everything. There were loads of security guards on the scene very quickly, and people were a bit panicky.”
Tom said: “We were lucky to be having coffee, it saved us, otherwise we would have been on that first floor.”
He noticed the gang were all dressed in black.
While he and other shoppers were safely locked-in at John Lewis, Tom tweeted about the gang’s dramatic entrance saying that it was “scary stuff”.
One of his concerned followers replied, “hang in there dude”.
The police cordoned off part of the building, and Tom and his mum left at about 11.30am.
Tom said: “We could see glass being cleared away as a window had been smashed. People were saying they had seen them with an axe – someone mistook the axes for a shotgun.
“Everyone was in a panic because there were mums with young kids there and it was so early, you wouldn’t expect something like that to happen.
“My mum was very shaken.”
Being a staunch St Albans City Football Club fan and Saints official Tom quickly recovered from the incident by immediately focusing on the then-pending game between the local team and Redditch.
It was a 2-0 win for Saints at Redditch United on Tuesday night.
An appeal for witnesses and information has been repeated by Flying Squad detectives who have taken over investigation of the smash and grab robbery.
A Met Police spokesman said it was understood that the suspects were armed with axes and bats. Three pillion passengers got off the bikes and ran on foot towards the jewellery store.
After smashing glass windows to steal watches and jewellery, they then drove in the direction of Hendon Central.
The motorbikes were later found abandoned on Ashley Walk in Mill Hill near a golf course.