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Fury as lead thieves strip shopping arcade bare in daring raid

PUBLISHED: 18:53 27 July 2011 | UPDATED: 09:16 28 July 2011

Cllr Geoff Tucker, Amit Chopra & Keith Johnson with lead hanging off the shop roofs

Cllr Geoff Tucker, Amit Chopra & Keith Johnson with lead hanging off the shop roofs

Archant

»Nearly an entire parade of shops in Rainham has fallen victim to audacious metal thieves, as criminals continue to “strip Havering bare”.

Lead roofs on eight shops, in Upminster Road South, were systematically targeted by the crooks during the small hours of Monday morning.

The metal – 2ft by 40ft in parts, is worth between £400 and £800 in scrap value – but the clean-up job is likely to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Residents living near the shops heard the thieves ripping the metal from pinnings between 4am and 6am, and alerted police, one shopkeeper said.

Two men were caught by officers.

However, it is thought the crooks could have started work on the roof as much as three weeks ago – carefully unscrewing sheets piece by piece – before attempting their getaway.

Noise

Keith Johnson, manager of J&J Computers, said: “We had complaints about noise coming from the shop weeks ago, but just dismissed it. Now it all makes sense.

“These guys had a field day.”

Said Cllr Jeff Tucker, whose jewellery business Rainham Goldmine is located directly opposite those affected: “I feel devastated for the shopkeepers. Each will have to fork out a lot of money to fix the damage before it rains otherwise the shops will be flooded.”

He added: “Nowhere’s safe: schools, homes, businesses. They are stripping the area bare and something needs to be done quickly.”

It is believed the crooks gained access to the roofs via a secluded alleyway off the main road.

Amit Chopra, owner of bathroom shop House of Aqua, said: “I will have to recover the costs myself otherwise the insurance premium will go through the roof.

“During the recession everyone’s trying to make an honest living and this is the last thing you need.

We’ve all got mouths to feed; this will make things hard for me and my family.”

Amit added: “The thieves must have been well prepared with tools and a vehicle, as the lead is very heavy.”

A spokesman for Havering police said: “Two men in their 20s were arrested and taken to an east London police station. They were bailed and will return next month pending futher enquiries.”


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