Villagers rally to help shopkeepers after robbery

An appeal set up yesterday to help the family who run the shop in Bitton after it was targeted by robbers has already raised over £2,000.

The Premier Express in the High Street is run by popular couple Kandeepan and Shyamala Ambigaipakan. On Thursday afternoon three men, who had been seen in the shop on two previous occasions during the day, came back wearing masks and threatened and restrained Shyamala, who was on her own at the time.

They raided the till and stole alcohol and cigarettes from the shelves. The total haul ran into several thousands of pounds. It is believed their getaway car was a BMW.

CCTV images have been passed to the police and it is understood that one arrest has already been made.

Kandy and Shyamala have building insurance but are not covered for contents.

With people from Bitton and neighbouring villages keen to show their support for the couple, a GoFundMe page was set up yesterday by local resident Sally Oliver.

She said: “These lovely people who work so hard from 6am to 9pm every day to provide us with everything we need do not deserve this misfortune at this time of year and I’m sure would appreciate the support of all the local residents of Bitton and beyond.

“Kandy and Shyamala are originally from Sri Lanka and having recently visited the country myself, I was taken aback by how welcoming and friendly every Sri Lankan we met was and how nothing was too much trouble for them. It would be great to reciprocate this back here and show support for this hardworking family.”

Already more than 70 people have donated over £2,000, smashing the £1,000 goal. It includes a £500 anonymous donation.

Kandy published this response to fundraisers: “Thank you all for helping us after this robbery. You all gave information to the police bravely and have been helping us in the shop. I am absolutely grateful and happy because of this. Thank you for all the bouquets, cards and the many other gifts. Thank you all this work and money that you have given is enough for us to continue working in the shop successfully.

“You have been a great help and an amazing and courageous community by helping us a lot after this incident.  Sally Oliver, a heartfelt thank you for all that you’ve done.”

Anyone with information on the crime can call the police on 101. The crime reference number is 5218275783.