“Tell us where the weed is or we will blow your knee off” - man relives terror of chicken rescue centre raid

Toby Chaplin who was attacked when armed robbers raided the Little Hen Rescue, Newton Flotman. Photo: Steve Adams Toby Chaplin who was attacked when armed robbers raided the Little Hen Rescue, Newton Flotman. Photo: Steve Adams

Thursday, August 21, 2014
9:02 AM

A gap-year student has spoken of the terrifying night three masked men burst into a caravan on a remote chicken rescue centre and threatened to shoot his knee and cut off his fingers.

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The Little Hen Rescue centre in Flordon is run by Jo Eglen and takes in battery hensThe Little Hen Rescue centre in Flordon is run by Jo Eglen and takes in battery hens

Toby Chaplin stayed overnight at Little Hen Rescue in Flordon, south of Norwich, to deter thieves, but said he would not go back because “I don’t want to die”.

The 24-year-old said one man shouted something like “wake up, where is the money” when he appeared in his bedroom in the early hours of last Friday.

He said: “It’s nightmare stuff. You wake up and are screaming. Then you are more submissive when you realise there is nothing you can do.”

Police said it appeared be a targeted burglary, and not a random attack.

Future of Little Hen Rescue still up in the air

Speaking last week on the evening after the latest raid on Little Hen Rescue, its founder Jo Eglen said it could be the final straw, and she felt like closing the centre down.

She said that having a presence at the remote location overnight was supposed to deter thieves who had struck before, but now she felt she could not protect animals or people on the site.

Since then, she has been overwhelmed with messages of support from concerned supporters, but said she is still uncertain about its future.

She said: “It’s still in limbo. No-one wants me to stop, but protecting the site overnight is still my biggest issue.

“I’m just letting it tick over because the animals are there.

“At the moment I just need to settle down and let my mind clear a little, but I don’t want to carry on.”

They are investigating whether it was linked to an aggravated burglary carried out by three men in Wymondham last month, when a man in his 20s suffered bruising and swelling after being punched in the face.

Mr Chaplin, who plans to study philosophy at Essex University next year, said one man punched him in the face before putting a pillow over it, and one man pointed a sawn-off, double-barrel shot gun at him while the others ransacked the caravan.

He said: “The pillow was removed from my face and one of the men pushed his small handgun into my knee and said ‘tell us where the weed is and the money is, or we will blow your knee off’.”

He said he told the men he did not smoke marijuana.

Mr Chaplin, from Wacton, near Long Stratton, said one robber later held his left hand against the mattress and put the knife against it, and later one threw an egg at his head.

Mr Chaplin said at one point a man tried to cover his face with a tea towel, and when that failed he hooded him with a pillow case.

He added that when the man standing guard over him saw his hand was bleeding, he wrapped the towel around it, and the two had “a bit of friendly banter”.

Before they left, the men used parcel tape to bind his arms and legs, and took money from the till, and his guitar, laptop, stereo, vacuum cleaner and phone, as well as the light from his bike.

The men are described as white, and one may have the nickname “Chubby”. Police said neither firearms were discharged during the incident.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Sarah Knights, said: “While the level of violence used in this incident is very concerning, it does appear that this was a targeted burglary rather than a random attack.

“I would like to hear from anyone who recognises the nickname or can offer further information to identify and locate any of the suspects involved. We are continuing to explore the possibility of links with a similar incident in Wymondham at the end of July.”

Anyone who may have seen three men acting suspiciously in the area around that time is asked to contact DS Knights at Norwich CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Do you have a crime story? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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