The first time our pharmacy was burgled, in 2012, I got a call from our alarm company at 2am. I jumped in my car with my partner and went out.
The drive took 20 minutes. We didn’t want to go into the pharmacy, because you risk scaring burglars. We couldn’t see anything wrong from the outside, so we put it down to a false alarm and left.
I came back in the morning. Two of my colleagues were stood there waiting. This was odd; we had a policy that you always needed two people to unlock the pharmacy. But there were two of them, so why were they outside?
“Something’s not right,” they said. The alarm box on the wall outside had been smashed in.
We lifted the shutters. When we saw the inside of the shop, we thought: “No, we can’t go in there.” The ceiling was damaged and one of the light fittings was hanging down. The intruders had lifted the roof tiles off and jumped through the ceiling.
The police came, dusted for fingerprints, and closed the whole place off. It was a headache. The pharmacy team set up in the adjacent GP surgery in the meantime.
The second time was in 2014. I was out for a meal when I got the alarm call around 11pm. I’d had a drink with my meal, so I couldn’t drive to the pharmacy to check what had happened.
I got a taxi and arrived in the car park. I could see through the shutters that the emergency light fitting was again hanging down inside the shop.
I wasn’t frightened because I was with a taxi driver, a burly chap who was bigger than me. I phoned the police straight away. They were there before I’d finished on the phone to them.
The burglar had lifted the roof tiles off and jumped through the ceiling again. They took stuff you can flog in the pub – electronic cigarettes, Nicorette patches and a whole stand of AA batteries. Fortunately, they didn’t get any ‘serious’ controlled drugs, because they were locked away in safes.
With parts of the ceiling hanging down, we couldn’t have customers in, and the forensics people didn't want us traipsing around, disturbing evidence.
We worked with the surgery, signposting patients to an alternate pharmacy to make sure they didn't go without their medication.
While the police were dusting for prints one patient ducked under the shutter said: "Can I have my tablets, please?” The police sent them to the pharmacy team, who were working from the GP surgery again.
The investigation took a day, then another half a day to make the place safe to trade before we could reopen. It was all about working with other people get things right. The roof has now been addressed as a weak spot.
Paul Knapton is a pharmacy manager in north-west England
This article is part of a series on how pharmacists have experienced crime. Do you have a story? Email it to [email protected]ubm.com