Family business on the brink after break-ins and arson attack

A family business in Hallen is on the brink of closure after being hit by break-ins and vandalism. United Contract Scaffolding, based on Severn Road in the South Gloucestershire village, had items stolen from its yard on two nights in May, then its forklift was torched on a third night. Owner Michael Kendall says GBP30,000 worth of materials were taken.

Two trucks — one stolen, the other damaged — were insured, but the GBP7,000 burned-out forklift was not. READ NEXT: Stand-off between First bus and cars at ‘road rage central’ Mr Kendall, 52, criticised police for not making any arrests in the case or carrying out forensic examinations, accusing them of “massive failings”.

He added: “If someone broke into a diamond jeweller’s in the centre of Bristol and nicked GBP30k worth of stuff, police would be all over it. “It’s knocked my business for six. My business is on its knees, it’s as simple as that. ”

Avon and Somerset police insist there was “no possibility of obtaining credible forensics”, CCTV footage was not high-quality enough to identify a suspect, and all “realistic” lines of enquiry have been followed. The business’ CCTV showed four people were involved in the first break-in, overnight on May 20, according to Mr Kendall. The culprits returned to the yard within half an hour to take more items, then broke in again overnight on May 23 to steal more, says the business owner.

Mr Kendall said: “They broke into my yard, cut the locks, ripped the fencing down, heavily damaged one of the vehicles and stole my truck. They tried to pick up a flatbed truck with the forklift and the fork went straight up through its bottom. “You could see on the CCTV they’d emptied what was in the truck, which originally had scaffold tubes and boards.

They were back within half an hour to steal loads of fitting materials. They used our truck to take about GBP30k worth of stuff. “They also vandalised the other vehicles we have by smashing the windows and taking tools out of them.

“They stole our forklift and got it stuck [in a nearby country lane]. Because of the terrain they couldn’t get it away.”

The burned-out forklift, which remains dumped in a country lane

Mr Kendall says police attended on the morning of the first break-in, about three hours after being called. He added: “When they broke in on the Sunday night (May 23), police didn’t turn up until 7pm the next day when no one was here to see them.

They said ‘we turned up at 7pm but no one was there’.” The business owner was unhappy with this response because he says he had alerted police on the Monday morning. He found the forklift dumped in the lane on the Monday, its keys stolen.

His son, who works for the firm, took off its wheel so it could not be moved. Mr Kendall says he did not bring the forklift back to his yard because he wanted to allow forensic investigations to take place. “On the Tuesday morning we found the forklift had been torched and spray-painted to say ‘thanks’, presumably by the same group of people,” he said.

“It is disgusting that people would take joy from stealing from a local family business and feel the need to further taunt us. “We had been waiting for police to do the dabs on the forklift, otherwise we would have taken it back into the yard. But they didn’t do that, and it ended up being torched.

“Police came the following morning but they just looked at the burned-out forklift and had a quick look at CCTV and went away.” The culprits “completely destroyed” the forklift, throwing mud on it and bending its levers, he added. Mr Kendall does not know why he was the target of such a gratuitous attack.

He said: “Materials have gone up massively in price and last week everyone got pinged [by Test and Trace] so no one was in work. There’s already a possibility we could be destroyed just with this Covid. “With everything going on at the moment, there’s someone like me with an honest business… there was just no interest [from police].

“They didn’t even class it as a big crime, but GBP30k worth of stuff being nicked is a big crime. I don’t care what anyone says.”

CCTV ‘not of a high enough quality’

A police spokeswoman confirmed the force received a report, at around 7.20am on May 21, of a commercial burglary, thought to have happened between 9pm and midnight the night before. “Damage was caused to property and a number of high value items were stolen including a transit van and building materials,” she said.

“Police attended and carried out enquiries, including an area tour and ANPR checks to locate the stolen vehicle and equipment. Unfortunately, these proved negative. “CCTV footage was obtained from a neighbouring unit, but this was not of a high enough quality to identify a suspect.

“CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) attend burglaries only when certain criteria are met. Guidance was sought regarding the appropriateness of CSI attending in this instance. Unfortunately, it was advised that there was no possibility of obtaining credible forensics due to the insecure nature of the premises and the fact the forklift truck had been exposed to the elements.

“The officer in the case updated the victim on the actions that were taken, explaining that all realistic lines of enquiry had been followed.” Police are asking anyone with information which could assist the investigation to call 101, quoting crime reference number 5221111245. Want our best stories with fewer ads and alerts when the biggest news stories drop?

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