Cash machine ram-raiders have struck at Waitrose in Alton – prompting the Hampshire and Isle of Wight police and crime commissioner to stress how crucial it is that they are protected.

The incident outside the Station Road supermarket happened in the early hours of August 16, when the vast majority of the town’s residents were tucked up soundly in bed.

A spokesperson for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary said: “We were called at 3.58am on Wednesday, August 16, to reports of damage being caused to a cash machine by a vehicle on Station Road in Alton.

“Officers arrived a short time later to find that damage had been caused, but nothing had been taken.

“Enquiries are ongoing and we are reviewing closed-circuit television in the area to identify who was responsible.” 

When the store opened at 8am shoppers were greeted by the sight of yards of blue police crime scene tape surrounding the insides of the machine which were strewn across the ground.

Although the cash machine does not belong to Waitrose – it is owned and operated by Cashzone, which has 18,000 of them in the UK – the retailer was glad action was being taken.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We’re grateful to the police for their quick response to this incident and to our customers for their understanding while the cashpoint is currently out of service.”  

Clues as to the identity of the culprits were soon found. On Tuesday a police spokesperson added: “A burnt-out van was found in a field off Old Odiham Road during the early hours of August 16. We believe this van was used in the ram-raid at Waitrose.”

Local cash machine ram-raiding reached its peak when ten banks, shops and petrol stations were attacked by a hole in the wall gang between July and November 2018 – including two in Farnham, one in Bordon and one in Alton. Hampshire and Isle of Wight police and crime commissioner Donna Jones said: “Crime of this nature does noticeably impact communities because many people need easy access to a local cash machine that’s available at all hours.

“Neighbourhoods can also be left feeling vulnerable, which is why my number-one priority as commissioner is keeping the public safe.

“In today’s world, with banks closing and large numbers of shops not being able to survive post-pandemic, it’s vital we do everything we can to preserve local amenities that can be a lifeline to many.”

Witnesses should call 101, quoting 44230330402, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.