PORTRAIT HIDES THE SECRET TO BREAK-IN
By CRAIG McTEAR
A LARGE picture of a beautiful woman proudly adorns Mario Lugli's continental delicatessen in the Cinema Walk Arcade.
But behind the beauty is a secret passageway which intruders discovered on Wednesday night.
They are believed to be responsible for daring raids on 13 or more businesses throughout the Coffs Harbour CBD that evening, causing countless headaches for shopkeepers and the police now hunting them.
Officers saw one man, described only as 183cm tall, running from one of the premises. They chased him along Scarba Street, but he gave them the slip.
Mario's deli was one of six Cinema Walk Arcade shops to be hit by the crooks, who knew exactly what they were doing.
With the arcade doors shut by 7.30pm after Subway closed, the offenders are believed to have scaled the arcade roof and forced their way into some shops through ceilings about 9pm.
THAT'S when security guards alerted Subway's owners that the power had gone off.
Mario, who has only been trading for three weeks, knew something was horribly wrong when police and fire crews swarmed around the arcade that night.
He rushed into his deli and discovered footprints all over his counter, items moved around and a $10 note missing. Then he looked up and saw how they'd climbed in.
"I'm not very happy," he said.
Across the hallway, Harbour T's Cafe owner, Jim (who did not want his surname used), had heard banging noises up on the roof all day on Wednesday.
"We thought it was plumbers fixing leaks," Jim said.
"They seemed to be pulling off sheets and drilling."
When he opened for business yesterday, he discovered a broken tile in his ceiling.
"It was obviously planned. At night we push our cake display back in so we can close our shutters. They knew what tile to break so they could climb down onto it," he said.
"They pulled apart the cash register, but there was nothing in there. They opened the coolroom, wrongly thinking we store money in there."
Up at Positive Health and Beauty, Leigh McGlashan knew more inconvenience was in store when he saw the smashed front door yesterday morning.
It's the second time his wife, Pamela, has had to deal with the aftermath of unwelcome visitors at her business. Back in August, they stole two computers.
"On this occasion, they sprung open the door and rifled the place, obviously looking for cash," Leigh said.
Scientific police spent most of yesterday examining the crime scenes, and they've seized items of interest for further examination.
Investigators need your help in tracking down the culprits.
If you saw suspicious activity overnight on Wednesday, you are urged to contact Coffs Harbour police on 6652 0299.