A RUTHLESS gang of armed robbers could be responsible for a spate of terrifying raids on South Yorkshire shops and newsagents.
Detectives are looking into 10 armed robberies, committed between November 22 and January 31. Although police do not believe every one of them to be the work of a single gang, they believe some could be linked.
In one, an audacious robber quipped “Cheers, love” to his terrified victim as he left her shop with a haul of cash and cigarettes. He and an accomplice had burst into the convenience store armed with a crowbar.
A variety of weapons has been used in the raids - including a gun in one, and knives, metal bars and wooden bats in others.
Nobody has been hurt in any of the incidents but Detective Chief Inspector Zaf Ali, Sheffield’s crime manager, said all were “harrowing” for the victims - mainly female shop staff working alone early in the morning or late at night.
He is now appealing for anyone with information about the raids to come forward - along with anyone who may have been offered, or who has bought, cheap cigarettes which may be loot from the raids.
Nine of the hold-ups have been carried out in Sheffield and one was in Rotherham.
“Although there has been a spate of armed robberies recently they are still rare - we have not had anything like this for a couple of years,” he said.
“They were nonetheless harrowing for the members of staff involved, who should not have to put up with threats of violence.
“We are doing our best to bring this to a halt and are looking at all offences for possible links.
“We are following up a number of lines of enquiry and looking at any possible connections.
“We have advised local stores and businesses to be vigilant and report and make a note of anything suspicious - that piece of information could be important to us.”
He added: “Anyone offered cheap cigarettes can also come to us in confidence. We are not interested in their bargain, just where they got the cigarettes from.”
In the first raid three masked men armed with a hammer stole cash from M&M News, Southey Avenue, Longley, at 9.15pm on Monday November 22.
On Saturday December 11 the Co-op on Derbyshire Lane, Norton Lees, was robbed of cash by two men believed to have been brandishing Taser guns who struck at 8.30pm.
On Wednesday December 29 two men armed with a heavy object got away with cash and cigarettes after raiding the Co-op on Lees Hall Avenue, Norton Lees.
Joanne’s Newsagents on Furnace Lane, Woodhouse Mill, was raided at 6.50am on Wednesday January 4 by two men who threatened a shop assistant with a knife before stealing the till and cigarettes.
Steve’s Convenience Store on Valley Road, Meersbrook, was held up at 7.30pm on Thursday January 13 by two men armed with a crowbar who stole money and cigarettes.
One of them said “cheers love” as they fled.
The same day, Cheers Off Licence on Lees Hall Avenue, Norton Lees, was held up by a man who threatened the shop assistant with a knife before getting away with money.
On Tuesday January 18 two men armed with a metal bar and a wooden bat stole cash from Longley Convenience Store, Loxley Road, Longley, and three days later Treeton News, Front Street, Treeton, Rotherham, was robbed by three men armed with a crowbar who stole cash and cigarettes.
Three offenders were responsible for a raid at the Co-op on Hutcliffe Wood Road, Beauchief, on Saturday January 29.
In the latest unsolved raid, three men brandishing a pistol raided Village News, Main Street, Grenoside, on Monday January 31.
Detectives investigating the robberies want to hear from anyone who saw a Landrover Discovery, stolen on Monday January 3, and used a few hours later by the robbers who struck in Woodhouse Mill.
The car, which was taken from Thirlwell Road, Heeley, and found later on Basegreen Way, Base Green, was registered as M733 UWW.
They also want to find out where a Mitsubishi Pajero was overnight on Friday January 28 after it was stolen from Holmhirst Drive, Woodseats.
The car, registration J223 MTY, was dumped on Haugh Lane, Ecclesall, where a red Saab was then stolen and later used by the raiders when they struck on Hutcliffe Wood Road.
Anyone with information should call Det Sgt Mark Ellis or Det Con Chris Hanson in West Bar CID on 0114 220 2020 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.