THE owner of a Lacock jewellers which was raided by four men armed with a sledge hammer and crowbar said the thieves got away with almost £100,000 worth of his stock.

John Watling, co-owner of Watling Goldsmiths, told the Wiltshire Times that petrified staff in the shop locked themselves into a back office as the raiders struck on Wednesday morning.

The four men, wearing balaclavas and dressed in black, pulled up outside the shop in East Street at 10am in a white Ford Cougar with three bursting into the jewellers, smashing the cabinets and leaving in less than three minutes carrying sacks of jewellery, leaving some items behind.

On Thursday morning Mr Watling said: “It is a personal second generation business here and really you feel a little violated when something like this happens.

"The amount they took is significant but if this were a jewellers in London you could have two or three items worth the same as the total of what has been taken here.

“There were three members of staff working. The first guy that came in threatened the young woman who ran off through to the back.

“Another member of staff was there and they then locked themselves in to keep safe and raised the alarm.”

The business has been in the Watling family since 1972 and was passed down to Mr Watling and his sister Jane Watling-Read 25 years ago.

Police recovered the getaway car, which was carrying false licence plates, shortly afterwards. It had been left in New Farm Lane, a side road just off Folly Lane West, near to the A350.

Mr Watling added: “I have seen the CCTV footage with my 17-year-old daughter and they were here for no more than three minutes.

“They were not very proficient in my view and to be honest a little clumsy.”