Guest warns of car park thieves

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A HOTEL guest has urged others to beware of thieves after a birthday treat turned sour.

Carolyn Tiernan has issued the warning after her car suffered more than £1,000 of damage when thieves targeted five vehicles at Longhirst Hall Hotel near Morpeth.

The Cramlington resident had booked a stay at the three-star venue as a special celebration for her husband Barry’s birthday last month.

But when the couple checked out the following morning their relaxing break turned into a stressful ordeal.

“We had a nice afternoon and evening at the hotel, and then the next morning we had breakfast and everything was fine, but when we went to check out at about 9.45am there was a police officer speaking to some other people in reception,” said Mrs Tiernan.

“When we went to the desk and gave our room number, the receptionist told us to have a seat and said there had been an incident overnight involving my vehicle.

“We spoke to the police officer and he escorted us to our vehicle, which was surrounded by police tape. I saw the windows had been put through, the radio had been stolen and the glovebox trashed.”

Mrs Tiernan’s CD collection and phone charger were taken, while her BMW’s tinted window was smashed, with glass damaging her leather seat. Her stereo was stolen, and the dashboard, glovebox and paintwork were damaged.

Another three cars and a van were also broken into.

“People were just gobsmacked that five vehicles had been damaged and broken into in one night at that sort of property,” said Mrs Tiernan.

She is angry that Longhirst Hall has refused to pay any compensation or accept responsibility.

“Longhirst Hall is the type of hotel with the type of grounds where you would have thought it would have been secure,” she said.

“I was really upset at the way Longhirst Hall handled the situation. I just want people to be aware of what happened so they don’t fall victim to the same thing and to make sure other people don’t have their belongings stolen or damaged.”

However, Longhirst Group Chief Executive Stephen Cowell insisted the facility is doing all it can to make sure the complex is secure.

He said: “This is a safe and secure place. I have been Chief Executive of Longhirst Hall right from its inception and in 20 years this is by far the worst incident that has happened and there has been nothing like this since.

“It is normal hotel policy throughout the country that vehicles are parked at individuals’ own risk. We deeply regret the incident, but it is a criminal act and we are not responsible for the criminal acts of others.

“This is a public place and it is free for people to drive in. We employ two night porters who patrol the grounds and we believe we do all that is reasonable.

“I personally have written letters to apologise and say how sorry we are for what happened, but we have made the point that it wasn’t our act. Hopefully, the police will find who is responsible.

“Unfortunately, these things do happen, but in 20 years we have had an excellent record.”

Mr Cowell said the hotel has also benefited from an increase in police patrols in the area in recent weeks.

Police have confirmed that five vehicles were broken into at Longhirst Hall between Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19. Inquiries are ongoing.