Raid suspects are caught on CCTV
POLICE have released this image of three suspected thieves who walked away with more than £38,000 of jewellery unnoticed by staff or shoppers.
The extraordinary theft, which was over in minutes, took place in broad daylight at Exeter's Ernest Jones shop, in the High Street.
Detectives have launched a manhunt to track down the culprits and have released descriptions of the trio.
The burglary comes just a week after £17,000 of jewellery was stolen in a night-time smash-and-grab raid at the Ivor Doble shop, in Sidwell Street, Exeter.
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Police say the two burglaries are not connected.
Detectives have been conducting extensive enquiries to establish how the thieves managed to steal the jewellery from Ernest Jones without being detected.
The suspects are understood to have opened a secure display cabinet situated on the shop floor, before removing a quantity of Fope jewellery valued at £38,500.
Police said the two men and woman had visited the store – and also a number of other jewellers in Exeter, including the Pandora store, in Princesshay – earlier the same day.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Adrian Hawkins said the offenders acted brazenly to raid the store during the day in front of staff and shoppers. "This offence was bold as brass," he said.
"They strolled in there and the theft lasted no more than about a minute. We are trying to establish how the suspects opened the securely locked cabinets," he said.
"CCTV shows the suspects walking around the store as if they were looking at items.
"They stopped by the cabinet before opening it and putting items into their pockets and leaving in the direction of McDonald's and Fore Street."
He told the Echo police believed the suspects were committing similar offences across the country. We believe the suspects are part of an organised crime group," he said.
"They are thought to be operating all over the country."
The first suspect is described as a white man, with short shaved fair hair, aged in his 40s, of large build. He was wearing an untucked light shirt with a lighter collar and blue tie, suit trousers and shoes, and was carrying or wearing a dark coloured jacket.
The second suspect is also described as a white man, of large build. He had short dark hair, was slightly older than the first offender and was aged in his mid-40s. He was carrying or wearing a dark coloured coat, and was wearing a blue and white shirt and tie, suit trousers, shoes and sunglasses.
The third suspect is described as a white woman, who had long straight auburn or brown hair, was around 5ft 7in to 6ft tall, of medium build, and was aged 20 to 40 years old. She was wearing a long maxi halterneck dress with a multi-coloured or striped pattern, a long shoulder bag with rope-style handle, flipflops, a thick bangle or watch on her left wrist, and sunglasses. The theft occurred at around 2.30pm on Saturday.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Whilst police continue to investigate the incident they wish to reassure members of the public and shopkeepers that this is an unusual occurrence.
"No person was threatened or put in any danger throughout the incident.
"Shops and stores should ensure that security measures in place are active and working correctly. Please be vigilant and if the described people are seen, contact police using the 999 emergency number.
"Detectives are also keen to hear from any 'cash for gold' type shops or outlets if they are offered 'new' items of jewellery for sale."
If anyone has any information, they are asked to contact Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 quoting crime reference DE/12/8594.