Twenty held hostage in charity raid

A GANG of thugs armed with a Taser gun took 20 terrified staff hostage during a robbery of an air ambulance charity yesterday.

Thousand of pounds of charity money was stolen from the Midlands Air Ambulance during the audacious raid at their headquarters in Brieley Hill, West Midlands.

Three balaclava-clad men armed with the high-voltage weapon gained access to the building as staff arrived for work at around 8.45am and held 20 workers hostage.

After disabling security systems, phone lines and computers the heartless gang escaped with thousands of pounds of charity funds and a staff member’s car.

Midlands Air Ambulance charity director, Hanna Sebright, said: “Our staff were absolutely terrified, they were in disbelief and some thought it was some kind of joke at first.

“These men dressed in balaclavas and gloves accosted one member of staff around the rear of the building and forced entry.

“They disabled phone lines and computers and other security equipment such as CCTV cameras before gaining access to the cash counting room.

“The men were very aggressive and forceful and our staff for frightened for their lives. Thery had no choice but to give the money up.”

The air ambulance charity have a fleet of three aircraft, and rely solely on charitable donations, receiving no funding from government or lottery grants.

“I find it hard to comprehend that people would commit such a violent crime and steal money from a life saving charity,” added Ms Sebright.

“One day they could be the very patients who need us in the future.

“Dedicated people have gone to great lengths to raise GBP6 million a year for the charity, and it is appalling that it will be unable to be used for the purpose of keeping the Air Ambulances in the air.

“This despicable act could actually cost people’s lives.”

Staff member Katy Meaney, who only started at the charity on Monday, said: “It was very distressing, everyone was in shock but when that shock passes it turns to anger.

“Everyone works so hard for the charity but the public’s money is in the pockets of these robbers now. It is so shocking.”

Ambulance chiefs have declined to reveal exactly how much cash was taken in the raid, but it is likely to run into the thousands.

West Midlands Ambulance service chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in this incident, but staff members are obviously extremely traumatised and are receiving full support from the trust, including the option of counselling.

“Any robbery, especially using violence, is totally unacceptable and hopefully with the help of the public, the people responsible can be caught quickly and brought to justice.”

Members of the public with any information are urged to contact West Midlands Police.

Detective Sergeant Chris Woodward, from West Midlands Police said: “This is a serious, and despicable, crime.

“Staff had not long arrived at work when they were confronted with these men in the office. They were threatened by the men and had phones taken off them.

“The offenders then took money bags, containing cash that had been donated. As yet we do not have a definite amount that has been stolen, however we believe the sum to be significant.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt however all those involved were obviously upset and shaken by their ordeal.

“We urge anyone who saw a grey Peugeot 308 in the area after around 9.15am to come forward and pass on any information they may have. We are yet to recover the vehicle so would be interested in hearing from anyone who may have seen such a car dumped or parked suspiciously.”

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