DETECTIVES are widening their probe into a dramatic raid at a jewellers.
Officers investigating the theft from Ernest Jones in the Cascades Shopping Centre, Portsmouth are looking at similar thefts across the south.
It comes after high-value Breitling and Omega watches were stolen from the Portsmouth store after thieves set fires behind the centre to distract emergency services.
Tracks were also placed as ‘obstructions’ in the street to stop police vehicles.
Thieves smashed their way into the back of the shopping centre, into the store and then out through Wallis into Commercial Road, police said.
Now detectives are looking into whether a burglary at the Ernest Jones branch in the Arndale Centre, in Eastbourne, is connected to the raid.
Thieves broke into that store through a front window and stole stock worth between £50,000 and £100,000. Sussex police said staff reported the theft, which happened on April 18, at 1.13am.
Three men wearing brightly-coloured ski jackets and scarves covering their faces were seen outside the store, police said.
On Tuesday, Portsmouth branch manager Nikki Rummins said: ‘I can confirm that no customer items were involved.’
In a statement issued yesterday, Chantal-Lawren Sainsbury, PR manager at Ernest Jones, said: ‘Our efforts are currently focused upon ensuring the welfare of our staff.
‘All of the stolen items possess serial numbers which means they will be completely traceable if any attempt at resale is made.’
Items sold at Ernest Jones include £26,000 Breitling watches, Cartier watches worth £29,000 and Chanel watches worth up to £22,000.
The chain has stores in Whiteley, Winchester, Eastleigh, Andover and Southampton
Sledgehammers were seen in evidence bags at the store in Portsmouth following the raid at around 3.30am on Tuesday morning.
Crime scene investigators recovered several other large tools and rucksacks. Police and the company have yet to reveal how much was stolen from Portsmouth but said it was a ‘significant amount’.
A lone security guard was in the centre at the time.
One worker arriving at the centre said the alarm sounded when the fire was set.
‘It does look like a professional job,’ the man, in his 20s, said. ‘There are rumours that they put tracks down on the high street to stop police.’
Anyone with information about the Cascades raid can call 101. Anyone with any information about the Eastbourne raid can email email@example.com