Three men escaped with “around £500” worth of stock – mostly fragrances and gift sets – after entering the Abbey Pharmacy in Sherborne, Dorset, at “around ten to three” on September 1, Mr Hewitson told C+D.
CCTV footage of the raid shows two customers attempting to trap the robbers inside the shop by closing the door, while a female member of staff grabs a bag of stolen goods, which then spill over the floor.
Mr Hewitson – who is also a Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and National Pharmacy Association board member – is seen struggling with one of the perpetrators, before being “threatened and punched in the face” by one man.
“The guy said to me, ‘I’ve got hepatitis C and I’m going to stab you’,” Mr Hewitson told C+D today (September 9). “He put his hand in his pocket as to produce a knife, which luckily he didn’t have.”
Mr Hewitson said the "absolute hero" in the incident was staff member Glenda Madment, who wrestled a bag containing £500 worth of stock from one of the raiders.
"Glenda, bless her, managed to get one of the bags back, which was fortunate because the stuff in that bag had fingerprints all over it," Mr Hewitson said.
"We're just trying to figure out the best way to thank her," he added.
"Can’t guarantee staff safety"
Mr Hewitson said he phoned Dorset police while the robbery was happening, but officers did not arrive on the scene until “two to two-and-a-half hours” after the perpetrators had fled.
Mr Hewitson attributed the delayed response time to “severe budget cuts” to local policing, which police told him might also delay the forensic processing of fingerprints found at the scene, he claimed.
“I don’t blame the police necessarily, but I do think we have unfortunately cut back on vital public services to a point where I can’t guarantee the safety of our staff,” he said.
In a statement, Dorset police said officers were called at 2.56pm, but were unable to attend the store immediately because “they were heavily committed with other priority calls”.
Two police community support officers were in the vicinity and “immediately began searching the local area for the suspects”, the statement added. “Police officers arrived 13 minutes later to assist.”
Mr Hewitson has contacted the Dorset police commissioner to raise his concerns about the levels of policing in the county, and confirmed he has been invited to attend a meeting in early October.
Dorset police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill told C+D: "I have received a letter from Mr Hewitson following an incident on September 1 and have offered him a surgery appointment to discuss his concerns in more detail."
"Residents value their neighbourhood policing teams, who provide a vital link with communities, preventing crime and investigating local incidents across Dorset," he added.
Precautions for the future
While Mr Hewitson and the “all-female staff” present during the raid were “obviously shook up”, he said he did not want to have to rely on a security guard to ensure their safety.
“We have always taken reasonable steps to protect our own property and, more importantly, the safety of our staff,” he said. “We have always told them not to challenge people if they got into that situation, but saying that and doing it in the heat of the moment is obviously different.”
As the investigation continues, Mr Hewitson said he would reiterate to staff the importance of protecting their own health ahead of the pharmacy’s, and might consider “putting out less stock” in future.
"Fortunately I was able to get away without being hurt too badly. One of them punched me in the face, but it wasn't a bad hit," Mr Hewitson said.
“I can’t say this is the worst thing that has happened in the history of pharmacy, but it was certainly a shock,” he added.
Mr Hewitson is hoping the publicity this robbery got, and his ongoing dialogue with the police will discourage perpetrators in future.
Read C+D's tips for preventing crime in your pharmacy here.