NEWSAGENTS are being urged to take extra care after a business owner was followed by thieves who snatched stock from his car.
Blackburn shopkeeper Tim McNamee had £750 worth of cigarettes stolen from the boot of his BMW when he stopped for petrol after visiting a cash and carry.
He said he believes the men watched him load up the car at Bestways Cash and Carry, in Lower Darwen, before persuing him. Mr McNamee, who runs a newsagents and off license in Holly Tree Village, said soon after he went into the shop at the Tottenham Road filling station to pay, the thieves pulled up in a silver Vauxhall Vectra, opened his boot and then made off with the cigarettes.
The shopkeeper said: “I went to the cash and carry in my car and I threw the cigarettes in the boot.
“I did not think somebody would be following me. But as I walked into the shop to pay, the thieves grabbed the cigarettes and went.
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“I had not locked the car. I never gave it a thought because I was only away a few seconds.
“Other shopkeepers have also been targeted and it puts us under more strain.”
CCTV from the attack on Mr McNamee’s car has been passed to the police and an investigation is underway. Mr McNamee said people buying cigarettes from cash and carries were becoming easy targets because they had to take them away in black bags rather than in plain boxes.
It meant thieves could easily tell they had bought expensive products.
He said he had heard of other newsagents across the North West also being targeted by thieves in a similar way.
Suleman Khonat, a Blackburn shopkeeper and vice president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, said that business owners should try to change their routines to avoid becoming victims.
He said: “It does not matter how much you do, people know you are a retailer.
“They watch you and they know your pattern.
“What people need to do is get cigarettes delivered to the shop or change their pattern.
“It is easier said than done, but if you can change your route too, it is safer.”