Businessman condemns tree thieves who 'almost ruined Christmas'
A businessman who had 190 Christmas trees stolen from him has said that the callous thieves "almost ruined" Christmas for his customers.
Saqib Shabbir, 33, whose CCTV captured the men brazenly taking the trees and loading them in to a van from his Manchester shop, said that he had been left "heartbroken".
Mr Shabbir, who owns Khawja Brothers Mini Market in Manchester Road, Chorlton, Manchester, was forced to ask for help from his family to stump up the cost of buying more trees - so that families were not left without a tree this Christmas.
He had been selling the mixed trees at between £40 and £50 each and was known in the community for providing locals with their trees for almost a decade.
The thieves, who are now believed to be selling £6,000 worth of trees on the black market, first approached the store at around 9.40pm on November 28, before returning once again between then and Monday November 30 and taking more.
Mr Shabbir added: "It has almost ruined my regular customers' Christmas. I don't want them (thieves) to enjoy theirs. I don't want them to have a smile on their face at Christmas.
"I have kept on for the customers, kept smiling on for the customers but it has affected me.
"It is the first time in 12 years we have ever encountered anything like this. I'm heartbroken and disgusted. It has shocked the community too, they were sorry to hear about what had happened."
Mr Shabbir was forced to borrow money from his uncle to help him "get back on his feet" and get the Christmas trees out to customers.
"It's something you don't expect in Chorlton. I have never had an apple go missing. I've built up this business and have gone through between 1,500 and 2,000 trees. We were very well known in the local community. I have been that annoyed and stressed. I have took a loss before I had even paid out, but what goes around comes around."
Detective Constable Trudy Lindsey, of South Manchester division, said: "The shop owners were devastated to discover that 190 of their Christmas trees had been stolen. This is their livelihood and the offenders selfishly put their business in jeopardy.
"The van has been spotted in Chorlton since, offering people Christmas trees. If you are offered one to buy I would ask that you contact police immediately.
"If you recognise the men in the CCTV, please get in touch with us and help us to catch those responsible."
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0161 856 4973 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.