SELFISH criminals caused a “devastating” ankle-deep flood in a charity shop after a failed mission to steal copper pipes from the flat above.
The Market Rasen Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance shop has been forced to close after water poured through the ceiling destroying £4,000 of stock and causing another £2,000 of damage.
The store will now have to be gutted and restored and could miss out on thousand of pounds of takings in the busy run up to Christmas.
The flood started after criminals forced their way into the empty flat above the Queen Street shop overnight between Saturday and Sunday and tried to steal copper pipes from the water system in the loft.
The would-be thieves failed in their mission but managed to start a leak which led to the “devastating” flood in the charity shop.
Serpentine Street resident Mike Tolan raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon when he saw water pouring from the shop door – but by this point the flood had already destroyed much of the stock including a leather sofa, wooden furniture and limited-edition pictures.
Charity shop staff and their concerned relatives rushed to the store and spent hours cleaning up the damage after managing to stop the water pouring in.
Volunteer shop manager for the past 18 years, Margaret Lakin-Whitworth, is devastated and described the incident as “reckless vandalism”.
The charity’s fundraiser Vivienne Chambers said: “Whoever did this is very selfish and they obviously don’t care about other people at all. I imagine they have little or no conscience.
“Market Rasen is one of our best shops, it’s the worst time of year for this to happen.”
Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance is a vital life-saving charity, which relies heavily on donations and sales at its charity shops.
Shop co-ordinator Sally Marsh said: “Our ceiling tiles have been destroyed, the carpet is absolutely soaking, the shop is just in a mess.”
A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said the offenders got into the flat through the front door after forcing it open.
She said: “They went upstairs, entered the loft and attempted to steal copper pipes from the water system, which caused a leak.
“They then left by the same way they came in.
“Nothing was taken but they caused criminal and leaking water flooded the shop below.”
If you have any information call Lincolnshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.