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Burglars broke into a family-run garage and left it on the brink of financial ruin.
The thieves stole £36,000 worth of tools from the Kingfisher Motor Company in Selmeston, near Lewes, in an overnight raid.
Bewildered staff arrived at work to find a 6ft hole in the concrete outer wall and both toolboxes empty.
Now the four-year old business, which has an annual turnover of £400,000, may be weeks from closure.
“We’ve got a mammoth amount of work just trying to deflect business,” company director Sharon Langenhoven, 42, told The Argus.
“There’s a big risk of the company going under.”
The garage has had to cancel all its bookings until mid-February ahead of meetings with insurers over recouping some of the losses.
The car showroom next door remains open for business, but a number of customers wanting to get their car serviced have already been turned away since the incident in the early hours of Thursday.
“We are very lucky to have such a loyal customer base,” said Mrs Langenhoven.
“But if they need something doing, then they have to take their business elsewhere. Unlike some bigger companies, we are really limited in how long we can carry on paying all our operating costs without an income
“It’s going to have a huge lasting effect.”
The thieves took all the spanners, ratchets and wheel bolts on site, as well as all the power tools.
Among the items stolen was a £900 thermal imaging camera.
Mrs Langenhoven said: “We can’t work at the moment.
“We are desperately trying to retain some glimmer of positivity, but we don’t exactly know how long it will take to get everything replaced.
“It’s taken years to get where we are now.”
The missing tools, made by specialist manufacturers Snap-on, have been accumulated over the past 20 years.
Kingfisher is offering a substantial reward in exchange for information via their Facebook page.
In an open letter to the burglars, Mrs Langenhoven said: “I want you to think about the destruction you have caused.
“We have bills to pay, here in the business and in our personal life.
“And you have taken this ability away from us to feed your evil desires. What makes you so entitled that you feel you can just take what you want?”
She added: “Sadly I know that this won’t be a one off and someone else will be waking up to this nightmare tomorrow.”
Police are urging rural business owners to tighten security.
Anyone with information should call 101, quoting serial 342 of 18/01.
Source: The Argus