A MANHUNT has been launched following a botched armed robbery at a jewellery store in Portsmouth this morning.
Robbers, wielding pick axes, attempted to smash through the window of Young George Jewellers, in Osborne Road, Southsea.
Two crooks, wearing white overalls and gas masks, struck the reinforced glass window of the diamond merchants several times before being confronted by passersby and fleeing empty-handed.
Witnesses say the men drove off in a silver/grey car, heading in the direction of Clarendon Road, Southsea.
A vehicle, matching the description of the gang’s car is understood to have been dumped in nearby Stanley Lane, behind the Waitrose superstore, and torched.
Police have now taped off part of Osborne Road as specialist scenes of crime officers gather evidence.
Nobody has yet been arrested for the attack, which took place at about 11.17am. Police are now hunting for the two suspects as well as a possible third person who may have been driving the getaway car.
Lawrence Thorpe, 26, of Southsea, was working two doors down from the jewellers when it was raided.
He said: ‘A car pulled up and came out of Portland Road. Two guys then got out with sledge hammers and started hitting the window.
‘There was quite a good citizen response – people were filming them as they were hitting the windows.’
Another bystander, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The men were wearing white overalls and gas masks. They were both pretty tall.
‘They were just hitting the window really hard. I thought it was workers in the street at first.
‘I couldn’t believe it when I looked out and saw it was the jewellery store being robbed.
‘It was pretty scary to see something like that happening so close to you. I didn’t want to go out because I was scared.’
A spokeswoman from Hampshire Constabulary confirmed no arrests had been made.
She released a description of the two suspects who attempted to raid the shop.
One man was described as being about 6ft tall, wearing a grey T-shirt. The other was wearing a light blue hooded top.
Both of the men wore white ‘forensic-style’ overalls, yellow gloves, goggles and white overshoes.
The spokeswoman added: ‘We would particularly like to hear from anyone that saw the direction that the car drove off in.’
Witnesses should call police on 101, quoting reference number 44170135237.
And anyone who filmed the raid – or who has CCTV cameras installed nearby – is also urged to contact police.
The force has now released a statement.
A spokeswoman said: ‘Shortly before 11.20am, a silver Volvo, with registration number FA52 AJU, pulled up outside the jewellers and two men with sledge hammers got out of the car and started to smash the windows.
‘Members of the public started to surround the car, so the offenders got back in the car and left the scene empty-handed.
‘The offenders were both wearing white forensic suits, with white overshoes, goggles and yellow gloves. One of the men was described as being about 6’ tall and wearing a grey t-shirt; the other man was wearing a light-blue hooded top.
‘There may have been a third person driving.
‘The Volvo car was later found burnt out in nearby Stanley Lane.
‘We’d particularly like to hear from anyone who saw the car being driven away between the jewellers and Stanley Lane, or from anyone who saw the offenders leaving the car in Stanley Lane.’