Sorry tale of seafront’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang

The CCTV, and the two holes made by burglars
The CCTV, and the two holes made by burglars

Burglars made off with £45,000 from a seafront café, but that wasn't the end of the story.

It is shortly before 1am and Madeira Drive is quiet when the white Ford Transit van pulls up outside Grace's Place.

Three men get out, armed with sledgehammers. They approach the café, enveloped in darkness, in a children’s play park on Brighton seafront.

Making their way to one side of the building, the gang begin noisily chipping away at the wall. Breaking through the brick, they eventually gain access to the café.

A police car passes by - not once, but twice - oblivious to the burglars at work.

Almost immediately, the trio - let us call them the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang - realise they have made a terrible mistake. A safe is not where they thought it would be.

An unexpected change of plan follows and the men make their way to the other end of the building. To chip away laboriously, to make a second hole. They do not know they are being filmed by a CCTV camera.

Again, the men - should we call them the Two-Holes-in-the-Wall Gang? - enter the café, and this time they find what they came for: a safe, containing £45,000.

The men drag it out of the café, load it onto their van, and drive off. Job done? Not quite.

Some time later, by now it is about 2am, and a speed camera is triggered on the A270 Lewes Road out of Brighton. The flash is seen by officers in a marked police car who decide to follow the mystery van that triggered it.

Officers - unaware of the Madeira Drive burglary - signal for the vehicle to stop, but it makes off at high speed. A chase ensues. The van, however, makes a desperate getaway, swerving onto the wrong side of the road and accelerating through red traffic lights.

p9 graces placeA short while later - at 2.11am on Monday (August 17), to be precise - the van is found abandoned in Middleton Rise, a leafy residential street in Coldean. Officers recognise it is the speeding van - which they now know is stolen. It is taken to a police pound for routine forensic tests.

Meanwhile, as the sun rises, all is quiet in Madeira Drive. Until a dogwalker comes across a pile of rubble - and two holes in the wall of Grace's Place. By 7am, the burglary has been reported to police and CCTV footage is discovered.

The police start to put the pieces together. They realise the burglars' van in the CCTV is the speeding van that was found abandoned.

Officers prise open the back of the van, to find a safe. Which still contains £45,000.

Anyone with information should contact Sussex Police. Email101 or phone 101, with the reference 158 of 17/08.