A GANG of travelling thieves made off with around £15,000 after a brazen distraction raid at a popular village pub.
Landlord Kevin Sanderson and his wife Jacqueline, who run The Spotted Cow, in Elwick Village, Hartlepool, were left devastated when the seven-strong group targeted the pub and stole the huge sum which was made up of takings and wages.
They say the gang walked in and immediately started causing a commotion to distract the couple, who were working in the restaurant and bar areas.
The group – who were all described as of Asian appearance and spoke in broken English – split up, with five women going into the restaurant area where 55-year-old Kevin was working, and two men heading to the bar where Jacqueline, 54, was serving regulars.
Kevin said it was “total chaos” with the group firing non-stop questions at the pair about food and drinks, and gathering closely around them, from both sides of the pub.
During the suspected bogus fracas, Kevin’s son, Kevin Sanderson jnr, who works in the kitchen, went to go upstairs to the living quarters, but one of the gang then seemed to attempt to make him stay downstairs by asking him questions.
But 23-year-old Kevin jnr continued on his way and found one of the women members of the gang had gone into the private area upstairs.
He shouted for her to leave and then alerted his parents to make the other gang members, who by this point were also trying to get upstairs, to leave.
Seconds later they quickly left the pub and jumped into a Ford Galaxy van and drove off.
It was after their hasty departure that Kevin and his family realised that the thousands of pounds in takings and wages had been stolen from upstairs.
Emotional Kevin snr, who has run the pub for three years, said he feels like the gang were professionals and wants to warn other licensees so that they do not suffer the same fate.
“They caused mayhem, confusion and distraction and bamboozled us with so many questions,” he said.
“I believe this was a professional group of people and they’ve taken three years of our work.
“It just makes you so angry, these people are ruthless.
“The woman who was upstairs had a bundle in her arms which looked like there was possibly a baby in there but I don’t know whether there was or not.
“There could have been anything in it, and the rest of them could have had knives, or guns, or whatever, you just don’t know.
“I’m devastated but I’m just glad that we’re all safe.”
He added: “We are learning from our mistakes the hard way and we know we shouldn’t have had that much money on the premises but it was a busy time of the month, and we’re going to be upping security now.
“We’re getting new locks and the back-door is getting locked from 4pm from now on. It’s made us realise that we can’t take any chances.
“You just never ever think that this will happen to you, but when it does it hits home.”
The gang went into the Elwick Village Post office and The McOrville pub trying the same tactics before striking at The Spotted Cow.
A member of the public got the registration plate of the vehicle which was also handed to police.
Kevin said police informed him that 30 minutes after the raid the van was spotted near to Scotch Corner, but the vehicle is said to be registered to an address in Manchester.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said the matter was being investigated and urged anyone with any information to contact Detective Constable Chris Bryant on 101.