Wed, 10 Jul 2019
Mortimer villagers have voiced their anger over a lack of police presence after a spate of crimes in the community.
The uproar came after Thames Valley Police apologised for their handling of an assault in the village, in which a man was nearly blinded.
Outbreaks of violence – including knife brawls – have been reported around Mortimer and residents now see crime and antisocial behaviour as a major concern.
On June 6, hardware retailer Dads Shop was raided by thieves, who broke through the glass front door.
The following morning, Budgens’ Mortimer branch came under attack when a gang used explosives to access a cashpoint outside the store – an incident captured on CCTV.
A third local business told the Newbury Weekly News that it was targeted on May 21.
Property offences are only part of the problem.
In the early hours of November 24 last year, Nikki Blissett was out in Mortimer with her husband Craig Blissett and friend Terry Foster.
They said they were set upon by a gang in Windmill Road, who followed them home from a pub.
During the unprovoked attack, Mr Blissett was punched in the face, while Mr Foster was knocked unconscious after being thrown head-first against the wheel of a van.
Mr Foster has been told he may lose sight in his right eye as a result.
Mrs Blissett quickly reported the assault to Thames Valley Police online via Webform and Mr Foster, who lives in London, made a statement some weeks later, which was received by the authorities on December 12.
The victims said that the subsequent police response was inadequate and police have apologised for their handling of the case in an internal report.
The investigation report, written by Insp Caroline Harrison and seen by this newspaper, admitted that officers may have missed opportunities to arrest suspects and seize evidence in connection with the assault.
Insp Harrison stated that Mr Foster’s statement caused “some confusion”, with police unsure as to which force was to attend his case.
However, she admitted that the incident may have received a different response had it been reported via telephoning 999, as opposed to online.
In that event, she concluded that there was likely to have been “wider consideration of evidence-gathering opportunities”.
She acknowledged officers missed opportunities to seize bloody clothing and mobile phones (the victims believed the gang filmed the attack).
The report stated that, due to the delay between Mrs Blissett’s initial report and Mr Foster’s victim statement, officers assumed they were not lawfully able to detain suspects.
Insp Harrison confirmed that officers were not operating under any time frames and could have made arrests whenever they felt it appropriate.
“While I cannot guarantee that further evidence would have been found,” she notes, “I would expect officers to consider the wider implication of not arresting a suspect as part of their decision-making rationale.”
She tendered an apology to Mrs Blissett for “any distress” arising from the conduct of police.
Since the incident, Mrs Blissett claims that she and her family have faced intimidation from members of the gang.
She said: “They started intimidating me whenever we were out [in Mortimer].
“If they see me or they see my husband, they just stare at us.
“It’s got to the point where I don’t want to go out at night anymore, because I’m scared they could be hiding around the corner.
Mrs Blissett’s fears for personal safety are widely shared by villagers.
In a Facebook poll, 55 Mortimer residents stated they felt unsafe walking around the village at night, while 208 identified criminal behaviour as a serious issue.
Mortimer’s annual parish meeting on April 29 was attended by Thames Valley Police.
Later, one person who attended the meeting, but who did not want to be named, told the NWN that the authorities had failed to recognise the severity of the village’s problems.
He said that there had been 95 people at the meeting and the general consensus was that the police needed to “do something”.
He added that, at a meeting about six weeks later, the police said that everyone had been “quite happy” at the annual parish meeting and that there was not an issue.
“The issue I’ve got is that if it continues much more, my gut feeling is that there’ll be a bit of a rebellion and I think people will take it into their own hands.
“I don’t want to see that in Mortimer.”