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Woman kidnapped in £0.5m IT theft

Surrey Police investigate

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IT companies are being urged to review their physical security after the financial director of a computer distributor was kidnapped and forced to help burglars steal computer equipment worth more then £500,000.

The kidnap of the 30-year-old woman and subsequent robbery, which are reminiscent of attacks normally carried out against bank staff, represent a disturbing new trend in crimes against IT companies.

According to a police statement, the 30-year-old woman had returned home from a meal out with friends in Guildford just before midnight on 13 August, before she was grabbed from behind and forced to the floor.

She was forced to hand over the keys to her workplace before being tied up and bundled into a white or silver Transit-type van, which was waiting outside.

After a 30-minute drive, the woman was forced to give the crooks the access code for the Hampshire premises of Pyramid Ltd. She then spent around two hours in the warehouse while the men selected various computers, valued at more than £500,000, which they loaded onto two lorries using a forklift truck. They then drove off, leaving the woman behind. She eventually managed to free herself then reported the incident to the Police.

Thankfully the woman did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of her terrifying ordeal.

Police believe three men (two black and one white) were involved in the abduction of the woman. Up to four further men were involved in the theft of the computer equipment that included Compaq Evo N610, N800 or N1015 notebook computers and Compaq flat screen monitors.

Detective Chief Inspector Brian Marjoram of Surrey Police, who is leading the investigation, said: "This was a very frightening experience for the young woman concerned. Thankfully incidents of this nature are extremely rare in Surrey.

"However, I would ask anyone working for companies dealing with high value attractive goods, such as computer equipment and jewellery, to look at your personal and business security," he added.

Don't let it happen to you...
IT Industries, which is part of the Pyramid Group, handles the excess inventories of HP/Compaq along with a number of other OEMs. The company sent out a statement on the attack to around 5000 customers and business partners yesterday. This gave an early estimate that goods worth £300,000 had been stolen. This figure has since been revised upwards to £500,000. The goods, already paid for, were insured. IT Industries continues to trade as normal.

Conrad Mohr, managing director at IT Industries/Pyramid Group, explained its motives for publicising the crime against it: "We are trying to ensure that the market is fully aware of what has happened so that they can then increase their own personal and business security measures.

"If any good can come from this awful event - which is a sign of the times - then I'd hope that it would be that we have helped prevent this happening to others," he added.

Mohr told us that the young woman at the centre of the distressing crime is fine and coping "brilliantly" in the circumstances.

Police appeal

Police are appealing to witnesses to the crime. In particular, they are interested in any sightings of a white or silver van around the Bellfields area in Guildford on the evening of Wednesday, August 14 or in Alton in the early hours of Thursday, 14 August.

DCI Marjoram added: "We are also appealing to anyone who has been offered Compaq Evo N610, N800 or N1015 notebook computers or Compaq flat screen monitors at reduced prices, or anyone who has been contacted to obtain prices on these items, to come forward."

Anyone with any information should contact the Major Incident Room at Guildford police station on 01483 653930, quoting Operation Dolphin or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. ®

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