Sledgehammer gang takes £10k from homeless charity

Matt Lopata beside the hole in the wall at the rear of the building. Picture: Gordon Fraser

Matt Lopata beside the hole in the wall at the rear of the building. Picture: Gordon Fraser

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A GANG of masked raiders smashed into a homelessness charity and made off with £10,000.

The callous thieves used sledgehammers to break through a 1ft-thick wall at the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative (EFI) in Sighthill Industrial Estate.

They then crawled through the hole in the brickwork and ransacked the office before ripping out an 80kg safe which had been bolted to the floor.

Staff believe the robbers may have known the combination code to a second safe which was also targeted.

The break-in took place at around 8.20pm on Monday, leaving staff devastated and may now put at risk the level of support offered to vulnerable young people.

Carol Rami, who worked as a volunteer before becoming a staff member, described the raid as “disgusting”.

She said: “The money we raise feeds straight into funds that keep people off the street.

“One of our hostels is for vulnerable young girls who come from horrific and abusive 
backgrounds, and we give them a safe haven. We hold their hand and help them get sorted.

“We will not see them on the streets but there is a risk they could be affected by this.”

The outlet is the commercial arm of the Four Square charity and sells furniture to support homeless people in the Capital.

Store manager Ian Whitehall, who has been left “gutted” by the raid, said: “Because we are stuck out on an industrial estate, we have really had to fight to build up the shop through customer service.”

The thieves were captured on CCTV before one of the gang disabled the camera.

According to staff, the men wore hoodies, masks and gloves and were armed with chisels, hammers and crowbars.

General manager Matt Lopata said the stolen money would have gone directly to helping the homeless and has pledged to learn lessons from the raid.

Security will be beefed up and money will no longer be kept on the premises overnight, he said.

He added: “We rely on donations and people who buy furniture in our stores. We are here to help vulnerable people and someone has taken advantage of that.

“I’m raging, especially as this has happened just before Christmas.”

Catherine Fullerton, SNP councillor for Sighthill and Gorgie, branded the raid “despicable” and “horrifying”.

She said: “I’m shocked. I just don’t know what goes through people’s minds. They do great work there which is invaluable to the homeless. Words fail me that people could do this.”

Police Scotland are investigating the break-in and the force urged anyone with information to come forward.

A spokesman said: “The incident happened sometime overnight between Monday, December 22 and Tuesday, December 23 at the property in Bankhead Medway. A safe containing money was taken and officers are urging anyone who can assist with their inquiries to come forward.”

HOW TO HELP

People wishing to help the charity can donate to Four Square by visiting its website www.foursquare.org.uk.

They can also send cheques to the charity’s headquarters at 67a Logie Green Road, EH7 4HF.

Unwanted furniture can be donated and will be collected by EFI free of charge, providing it is in good condition.

There are also a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to work with the charity.