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But we are in the throes of a relentless and prolonged series of well-executed robberies. So many that we seem to have two or three reports every single week.

During the last few weeks one dealer was literally ambushed by two vehicles blocking her way on a country road.

A young dealer was physically attacked in the car park of a regular well known and well attended fair within the last few weeks. His entire stock was taken and he was left injured on the ground.

The same venue saw a snatch and grab robbery of a dealers’ entire stock while he had gone to fetch his car. There were still dealers in the hall; however, these thieves are so quick that nobody saw anything. At the same fair a few months ago another dealers’ bag was taken. Again the majority of her stock was lost.

A picture begins to build. People are realising they are being watched. However, there is very little you can do to protect yourself as you need to travel and need to show your stock in order to make a living.

Very recently at a large London antiques fair, when the hall was thronged with customers, a group of four used distraction techniques while one man crawled under the stall and grabbed the dealer’s bag. This resulted in a large loss.

These attacks affect victims in many ways: shock, stress, anxiety, financial hardship and loss of confidence. The consequences are often life changing.

This brings us to last Saturday. A long-standing member of the trade underwent a second attack within a month.

During the first attempt a woman went behind his stall and took his bags. She was spotted and proceeded to remove her clothes and yell that she was being attacked. This resulted in the dealer being questioned and the actual perpetrator getting away. Then on Saturday they returned. While he was fetching his car, the gang of men used distraction techniques on neighbours and one man stole all the bags. This dealer has lost everything.

Huge changes

With the current post-Covid climate and the huge changes we have all undergone, the heart of the market trade has been altered beyond all recognition. Many smaller venues have gone so sourcing stock has become extremely difficult and selling to the trade or public in a market environment has become more difficult.

The official comment on this robbery has been that it was random and performed by an opportunist. We know this is not the case. It really is quite insulting and belittling to be told this sort of strategic planned robbery is random. I have been told before by people in authority that many of these gangs are involved in very serious crimes including distribution of all sorts of illegal things and people trafficking. If this were a sustained, constant attack on, say, Harrods or Marks & Spencer would the victims be treated with such regard?

Protect our markets

The antiques trade has staggered through the pandemic. Many markets and shops have just survived. The London markets are an integral and vibrant part of city life. We cannot allow it to be destroyed and for dealers to feel too intimidated to go to work. A city without markets is a dead city. We must fight to keep them.

Portobello Road, Covent Garden, Spitalfields, Bermondsey Square, Camden Passage, Horticultural Halls in Victoria: all wonderful sources of everything you can possibly think of. Please come and support us and see for yourselves and join us in asking for the time and respect due to a hard-working dedicated group of people who have spent a life time learning their profession.

These crimes need to be investigated. They need to be stopped.

From a third generation antiques dealer specialising in jewellery