Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Raiders smash through community hall wall

RAIDERS ransacked a community hall after smashing their way through a solid wall

RAIDERS ransacked a community hall after smashing their way through a solid wall.

They created a hole large enough to climb through during the break-in at Kidmore End War Memorial Hall, off Reades Lane, Sonning Common, over the weekend.

Once inside, they broke padlocks on doors and cupboards, set off fire extinguishers and ripped stage curtains from their railings — but they found nothing to steal.

The wreckage was discovered by hall caretaker Rod Hayward when he came to clean the hall on Monday morning. The building had not been used since about noon on Saturday.

Alan Gibbon, treasurer of the hall management committee, said he would claim for the damage on the building’s insurance policy.

He said: “We have to refill three fire extinguishers, replace all the locks and rebuild the wall. I think it would cost at least £1,500.

“It’s disturbing and distressing that this sort of meaningless thing can happen. I’m not really sure what their motivation is, it appears it was just vandalism. But vandals don’t usually put in that amount of effort to gain entry — if they wanted to do that they could have just smashed a window.

“There is nothing kept in the hall because we are out of a limb and it’s very difficult to make it secure.” Police are investigating the raid and called in forensics experts to try to find clues to the suspects’ identity.

The hall, which is used for martial arts, tai chi, aerobics and yoga, has since been cleaned up.

Carole Lewis, a parish councillor who is chairs the hall committee, said it was a case of “meaningless vandalism”.

She said: “The hole in the wall is about a metre wide and the window frame is hanging out. The fire extinguishers were only filled a few months ago.

“We aren’t sure how to make the hall secure in the short term but we are going to have to find a way to do so.” She was concerned about the state of the wooden floor.

Councillor Lewis said: “We are precious about it because we have classes here with people in bare feet.

“This hall is for everybody to use, in bare feet or trainers. It is a community hall run by volunteers for everybody to use.”

Mr Gibbon added: “The hall is well used — about 60 to 70 per cent of the available time it is booked but it’s not used regularly over the weekends.

“There was nothing on Sunday so we assumed it happened then and it couldn’t have been in the dead of night because they would not have been able to see what they were doing.” Mr Gibbon believers the offenders must have equipment to break through the wall, which is made of concrete blocks.

He said: “I keep coming back to the way they got in. They would have had to expend quite a bit of effort and must have had a tool of some description.

“With a long crowbar they would have been able to rake away the mortar. It would have taken a serious amount of time to get in — they could not have done that in 10 minutes.”

Councillor Lewis said a specialist contractor would be needed to repair the wall, which dates back to when the hall was built about a century ago.

All classes at the hall will run as normal this week.

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