Armed robbers on the run after striking at a Harrogate jewellery store have been terrorising motorists in a series of car jackings as they make their escape.
Fattorini’s jewellery store on Parliament Street in the town centre was hit by a gang of balaclava-clad robbers at around 8.35 this morning.
They fled the scene empty handed after staff sounded the alarm, abandoning their getaway car on a quiet street near the Valley Gardens - in a similar style to a robbery two years ago.
It’s now been reported that the robbers, armed with weapons including an axe and an iron bar, have been threatening several motorists in a series of car jackings in Leeds.
One man is even said to have been dragged from his car near Kirkstall Abbey by the gang before they fled in his Vauxhall Corsa.
One eyewitness tweeted: “I just felt like I was on [computer game] Grand Theft Auto.
“Not everyday do you see four guys jump out of a van and drag someone out their car to then drive off.”
The robbers struck at Fattorini’s, on one of the busiest streets in central Harrogate, at around 8.35am.
They smashed the door off its frame in the raid but the reinforced glass, although shattered, did not break.
One eye-witness said all he could see were clouds of smoke from within the store as alarms were triggered.
A major investigation was immediately launched, with police spreading out across Harrogate, scouring routes into Leeds on the A61 and on Otley Road.
Investigating officers are now going shop to shop on Parliament Street, talking to business owners and workers.
And a grey van, believed to be the getaway car, has now been found abandoned on a small street near the Valley Gardens.
Crime scene teams are examining the van which has been discovered on a small alley near Valley Road.
This was the same location used by a gang of robbers who targeted Fattorini’s in a raid in March 2012, although police haven’t yet said if they are linking the two.
Another car, a Nissan Qashai discovered nearby, has deep gashes in the metalwork and the wing mirrors have been smashed off as though it has been in a major crash.
Police now want to hear from anyone who may have mobile phone footage of the robbery in Harrogate or the car thefts in Leeds.
Extensive enquiries with neighbouring police forces are being carried out to find the gang.
Det Insp Nichola Holden, of Harrogate CID, said: “Understandably, the public will be concerned by the chain of events on Thursday morning, however I would like to reassure people that we are doing everything we can to locate the suspects as soon as possible.
“If you have any information that can help to identify the suspects please call the police or Crimestoppers.
“It is important that if you have any footage or images of any of the incidents that have taken place you share it with us.”
West Yorkshire Police has confirmed it is now carrying out a joint investigation with NYP after two cars were stolen in separate incidents, with attempts made to steal a further three.
Det Insp Ian Lawrence, of Leeds District CID, said: “Wide-ranging enquiries to trace these offenders are ongoing at the moment and we are liaising with other police forces.
“There are a number of scenes in place where the offenders took vehicles or attempted to take vehicles from their owners.
“These incidents will have been seen by a number of people and I would appeal for anyone who witnessed any of these events to contact us.”
Anyone with information is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.