Published: 07:00, 22 July 2016 |
Updated: 07:27, 25 July 2016
Police have cordoned off a parade of shops in Staplehurst after a ram raid at a bank in which a cash machine was stolen.
The entire front section of part of the bank is missing, with bricks laying outside the front of the building.
A Merlo telehandler- a type of tractor used for heavy lifting - was found stopped next to the scene with its lights still on.
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Dean Levitt, a fire service engineer said the engine was still running at around 7am this morning amid a scene of 'carnage'.
VIDEO: NatWest in Staplehurst was targeted last night.
The 43-year-old said: "They obviously knew what they were doing. It was an absolute mess and It is disgusting someone could do something like this."
A 22-year-old witness said he was awoken by a loud banging at about 3.30am this morning and called the police.
Video: The scene of the crime outside NatWest
He looked out of his bedroom window and saw four to five masked people who appeared to be obscuring CCTV cameras using a fire extinguisher.
They then used the tractor to repeatedly ram the building and rip the cash machine from the wall.
This was loaded into a flatbed truck driven by one of the thieves.
He said the whole happened less than 10 minutes.
He said: "It was quite scary. What I was thinking [at the time] was what would happen if they saw me, if they saw me talking to the 999 operator."
The cash machine is reported to have then been lifted onto a flatbed Landrover, which left the scene and headed in the Cranbrook direction.
Mogammet Hoque, who works in the SPA nearby. He and his family were woken up during the raid. He said: "I am thinking about leaving this place because of the children. This is the second time it has happened."
"It was really frightening. "
It is believed the tractor used in the raid was taken from a building site in Bell Lane about 200 yards away. However when approached workers refused to comment.
It's not the first time the bank has been targeted.
In February 2007, a gang used a mechanical digger taken from the Staplehurst Health Centre building site to dislodge a cash machine from the wall of the bank.
Residents near the bank in The Parade were woken by the sound of the digger’s mechanical arm battering the side of the building.
After releasing the cash machine from the bank wall the thieves loaded it onto a silver coloured 4x4 to escape from the scene.
Later that month a £30,000 reward was issued for anyone who could help trace those responsible.
Police are appealing for help tracing those responsible for this morning's theft.
Detective Inspector Gary Scarfe, of Kent Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit said: "The industrial machinery used to prise the cash point from the wall was left at the scene and we are following a number of lines of enquiry to identify those responsible.
"Although this offence happened in the early hours, we are appealing for anyone with information who may not have yet come forward."
Anyone with information should call 01622 604100, quoting reference 22-0150. Alternatively contact Kent Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
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