A SPATE of ram raids has taken place at garages in north Essex.

Pace Automotive at Hythe Hill, Colchester, which is owned by Ben Pace, was one of at least five businesses targeted by thieves and vandals in 24 hours.

A white Astra van with a tow bar, driven in turn by a man and a woman believed to be pregnant, reversed into the garage entrance at about 3.40am yesterday.

Once inside, the woman, wearing a hooded top and flip flops, began to search the premises before making off with a heavy laptop bag containing the company’s accounts.


One of the suspects captured in Lawford

Mr Pace, 38, said although there were no credit card numbers on the paperwork, customers’ names and car registration numbers will be.

He said: “Nothing can be used either for credit card or identity fraud as we’re really careful to not keep that type of information.

“But unfortunately, I’m old-school and did everything on paper. Now we’ll be unable to prove or disprove our expenditure from April 2016, when we opened.

“It makes no sense. I don’t know what they were looking for. A smart thief doesn’t break into body shops or garages because there’s no cash left on site and neither are the keys, so they can’t take the cars.”


Several car garage owners filed police reports of the same Astra van

Reports from owners confirm the same van - with a registration believed to be VN02 LLF - targeted Lawford Service Station, a garage in Thorpe-le-Soken and Clacton’s Motor Parts Direct between 5am and 6am.

Another stated an Astra ram raided a car sales company in Dovercourt the night before and stole keys for courtesy cars.

In one of the CCTV clips, shared with Mr Pace and business partner Adam Bischoff, 31, the woman can be seen driving the van, with a broken brake light, while her accomplice steers.

In Colchester, the getaway car was parked across the road.


Costly repair bills will run into the thousands of pounds at Pace Automotive

Repairs will cost about £7,000 and it will take at least two weeks before Pace Automotive’s made to measure roller blinds can be replaced.

Despite this, it is business as usual for all involved.

He added: “I’ll never let them beat us – no chance.”

Anyone with information should call Colchester police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.