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27 May 2010, 12:39 | Updated: 27 May 2010, 13:16
Police are appealing for witnesses after cigarettes with a street value of £2 million were stolen from Southampton docks.
Officers believe there were at least four offenders involved in the robbery, which took place sometime between 12.30am and 3.00am on Monday, May 24.
The offenders forced entry to the premises on the dockyard site and tied the security staff up while they loaded 26 pallets of cigarettes onto an articulated lorry.
The IVECO lorry has a white cab and the trailer is a double-decker with a sloped front and blue curtains with no company markings.
It is very distinctive in that there are four spotlights on top of the cab and fairy lights around the front windscreen.
The vehicle was caught on CCTV leaving the docks area shortly after 2.30am.
The haul of cigarettes stolen included Benson and Hedges, Lambert and Butler, Superkings, Mayfair.
A number of packets of Golden Virginia tobacco were also taken.
The cigarettes may be recognisable because many of the individual packets will have health warnings printed in Spanish and French.
Detective Inspector Simon Baker, from Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “This was a very serious crime carried out by what we suspect is a highly organised gang of criminals. “We believe the lorry headed out of Southampton and joined the M3 northbound towards London, so would appeal to any drivers who may have seen the vehicle in the early hours of Monday to get in touch.”
Police are appealing for anyone who has been offered cigarettes matching this description to contact them.
Officers are also appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the early hours of Monday or who saw the lorry either before or after the robbery took place.
Anyone with any information should contact Det Insp Baker, at Hulse Road in Southampton, quoting Operation Gallop, on 101 or call the charity Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555 111.