The Hole in the Ground Gang

From The Daily Mail newspaper 6th October 1995

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Raiders who used flame-cutting gear to break into a fireworks store saw shooting stars after sparking a massive explosion early yesterday. The blast hurled debris 200 feet, blew apart a van being used by the gang and left only a smoking crater where a concrete bunker which housed the fireworks had stood.

Police believe the intruders - nicknamed the Hole In The Ground Gang - got away unhurt. But one officer said yesterday: "Whoever is involved had an extremely lucky escape."

The burglars used oxy-acetylene welding equipment in an attempt to burn through the thick steel door of the 10ft by 7ft store on an old World War II airfield at Teynham, near Sittingbourne, Kent, England. Sparks from the cutting gear ignited 1000 Roman candles and Spanish rockets, worth 3 pounds each. The blast tore apart the 12in-thick concrete walls.

The terrified crooks fled across the airfield as a spectacular fireworks display woke neighbours for miles around.

Rod McGregor, a director of the firework makers, Skyhigh Pyrotechnics, said: "They must be absolutely stupid. There are signs on the site which clearly say 'No entry. No smoking. No naked flames'. Whoever took oxy-acetylene equipment onto an explosives site has got to be a sandwich short of a picnic. It could have been suicidal."

The company used a former ammunition dump to store fireworks made in its neighbouring factory. Mr. McGregor said the blast cause about 20,000 pounds worth of damage. The bunker's 2 ton concrete roof landed on top of the wooden factory nearby.

Officers checked with hospitals but had no report of anyone arriving with blast injuries.

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