Restaurant owner learns kung-fu after 5 break-ins

Bia Bistrot owners Roisin and Matthias Llorente. Picture: Greg Macvean
Bia Bistrot owners Roisin and Matthias Llorente. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The owner of a city restaurant hit by a spate of break-ins in the last year has taken up self-defence classes in a bid to protect herself against intruders.

Bia Bistrot in Colinton Road was broken into in the early hours of Thursday, with thieves smashing the glass window on the front door but failing to make off with any cash.

Roisin Llorente, who runs the restaurant with husband Matthias, revealed the incident was the fifth time since July last year that burglars had targeted the business – causing more than £2000 of damage.

And the 36-year-old chef said she had since taken up self-defence classes at The Yee’s Hung Ga Kung Fu Academy in Lower Gilmore Place to help her feel safer running the eatery.

A new staff rule also bans employees from locking up by themselves after thugs broke in to the restaurant in April and snatched the safe – with police later finding the empty container and an abandoned knife in a nearby garden.

Thursday’s incident comes after Morningside Mini Mart was ransacked by thieves at 5.30am on July 25, with cigarettes, mobile phones and up to £1000 in cash stolen.

Ms Llorente said businesses throughout the area had been affected by the crime spree – with put-upon police left powerless to stop it.

She said: “We’ve done the maths and it’s five break-ins in the last year. We’ve been chatting to a few businesses in the area and everybody up here is getting done, and I know a lot of homes have been done, too.

“It’s just sad. Nobody thinks this will happen when you open a restaurant. The police have been so good but they just say they’re so restricted – there’s not much they can do. I’ve been through this process so many times and it takes ages.

“They say they don’t have the help to follow it up – there’s no-one on the street. They said there was one night where it was just call after call, but the guys doing it were one step ahead the whole time.

“They’ve broken in four times through the front and once through the back door. That time they crowbarred the back door and then they went down to the office and took a crowbar to that, and got the safe.

“The police later found the safe in a nearby garden in Greenhill. It’s like losing your wallet – it’s not the money, it’s the other stuff we have got in there, like recipe books.

“My alarm guy is coming out again but I don’t really know what else to do – unless we put up big shutters. But they are extortionate and it looks like we’ve got something in the shop, and we don’t.”

Danish Masood, manager of the nearby Morningside Mini Mart, said he had been going through a “nightmare” since the break-in last Saturday morning, with thieves causing damage of up to £5000 to his shop.

He said: “The folks around here are quite scared just now. These people are not only targeting the shops, it’s the houses too – anything they can get their hands on.”

Shocking figures released earlier this year indicated Edinburgh housebreaking rates are more than double those in Glasgow, with city officers setting up Operation RAC in a bid to crack down on burglaries.

Police Scotland’s Superintendent Alan Porte said: “We have a number of strategies in place to combat this issue, including Operation RAC, which has seen both a significant reduction in the number of break-ins and an increase in detections of those responsible.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com