SUSSEX Police have praised the actions of villagers who helped to thwart a gang of thieves from raiding a bank in Rustington over the weekend.
Detectives from the force have launched a manhunt for a gang of ‘audacious’ thieves who tried to cut their way into a cash machine inside the Santander branch, in Ash Lane.
The crime took place at about 4am on Sunday (September 16).
Police said that locals spotted a group of people on the roof of the bank and that strange noises were heard.
A hole had been created in the roof and a number of people had entered the bank with an angle grinder and attempted to cut open a cash machine inside the branch.
The alarm was set off and security smoke was released inside the building.
When members of the public disturbed the intruders by shouting at them the group fled from the bank empty-handed and got into two cars waiting nearby.
Detective Sergeant Michelle Auger, of West Sussex Priority Crime Team, said: “This was an audacious attempt to steal from the bank that was thwarted by Santander’s defences and the members of the public who challenged the thieves.”
The getaway vehicles drove off westbound along The Street, heading towards Littlehampton.
One of the cars was described as a white hatchback and the other was a dark hatchback.
Witnesses told police that the bungling thieves were wearing dark clothing and balaclavas.
In a statement released by the force on Tuesday, a police spokesman said that those who went inside the bank would have needed to be small to fit through the hole.
DS Auger added: “We need to speak to anyone who saw the raid taking place or the thieves escaping.
“We are particularly keen to speak to anyone who may have seen people acting suspiciously around the branch in the days or weeks beforehand or who saw the getaway vehicles after they left The Street.”
The hole in the bank’s roof has since been repaired.
Santander was unavailable for comment before the Gazette went to press yesterday morning.
Police are now urging anyone with information should call 101 quoting serial 269 of September 15 or to contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.