THE founder of a multi-million pound Blackburn company was beaten by a balaclava-clad gang in an early morning attack at his home.

Jason Cropper, a former director at e-cigarette manufacturer Totally Wicked, was set upon by the men with a number of weapons as he let his cat out at his large detached property in a leafy part of Samlesbury.

Brandishing the weapons they demanded to know where he kept his valuables.

After gaining access to the house, they stole expensive jewellery, a substantial amount of money and several other valuable items.

They escaped in Mr Cropper’s Range Rover, which was discovered on fire a mile away from his home in Goosefoot Lane at the bottom of a driveway a short time later.

It is thought the gang had a getaway vehicle waiting.

Officers said following the robbery, which happened at around 12.30am yesterday morning, Mr Cropper was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where he was originally expected to stay for a couple of days because of his injuries.

However, he returned home yesterday afternoon, walking gingerly with his arms in bandages.

Officers, who were still at the scene, refused him entry to his home to allow forensic investigators to continue their work.

After talking to officers and a neighbour, he collected some personal belonging and left. It is understood when the forensic work is completed he will be allowed home.

Mr Cropper told the Lancashire Telegraph he did not want to talk about the incident, but added that a reward would be offered for the arrest and conviction of the men who had attacked him.

During the afternoon crime scene investigators, scientific support officers and police community support officers remained at the property, which features an iron gate with an intercom, CCTV cameras and tannoys.

They told Mr Cropper they would remain there throughout the evening.

Crime scene tape hung from an open gate and officers in protective boots examined the large four-bedroom stone property, which features several garden areas, a two-acre paddock and a guest suite in an adjacent barn. Properties in the area sell for around £500,000.

Mr Cropper resigned from his role of chief executive officer at Totally Wicked in June, when he declined to retract comments he made in emails to a member of European Parliament and an official from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The EU has outlined plans to label e-cigarettes, which are currently unlicensed, as medicinal products.

At the time the company said his brother and Totally Wicked director Fraser Cropper, would assume the role of CEO.

Detective Inspector Geoff Hurst said: “This is a serious incident in which a man was subjected to a prolonged attack and suffered some serious injuries.

“I’d be very keen to speak with anybody that witnessed any suspicious activity in the area or any strangers to the area acting out of the ordinary.

“The offenders abandoned the stolen Range Rover nearby so we believe they would then have swapped into a different vehicle. If anyone saw a vehicle in the area in unusual or suspicious circumstances I’d urge them to contact Lancashire Police on 101.”