POLICE are hunting a hooded man in his 50s who is targeting charity shops with stink bombs.
The man – in his 50s – repeatedly preys on the Cancer Research shop in Hall Place and the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance shop in Sheepmarket.
The stink bombs smell like rotten eggs and the stench is so powerful that customers arriving at the shops are opening the door and going away again.
Lisa Winkley, manager of the Cancer Research shop, said the stink bombs are usually let off amongst the books on the ground floor.
Staff have to throw books away and the foul smell fills the retail area and both upper floors.
Mrs Winkley said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. It’s foul. It has a smell of its own.”
Her staff now know what the stink bomb attacker looks like and his last attempt to disrupt the shop was foiled when a shop volunteer approached him to ask what he was looking for.
Mrs Winkley said: “Last time we caught it in time – he didn’t manage to break it properly and I was able to get the stink bomb out. I chucked it in our bin outside.”
That happened three weeks ago and the man hasn’t been seen inside the Cancer Research shop again but he struck again last Wednesday at the air ambulance charity.
Celia Laverton, manager of the Sheepmarket shop, said: “It happened about lunchtime, between 12 and 2pm. It’s foul.”
The attacks began last summer and, after a brief lull, they began again with a vengeance – often on Wednesdays.
Mrs Laverton said: “It’s happening at least once a week now.
“People will walk in and go straight out again. It smells like rotten eggs.”
The stench lingers for around 45 minutes – and that’s after she’s opened the door, switched on fans, sprayed air fresheners and lit incense cones.
Mrs Laverton said: “I have to turn the heating off when I open the door because we are a charity shop and we need to look after every penny.”
The charity shop managers and police have no idea why the attacks are happening.
Mrs Winkley said her regular customers are now so used to the stink bomb attacks that they continue to shop – but others simply walk away after opening the front door.
PC Paul Smith, Spalding town centre beat manager, said he’s seen isolated incidents of youngsters letting off stink bombs in shops as a prank but in 22 years of policing has never come across a concerted campaign like this against charity shops.
He said: “If the gentleman has got a problem with the shops then I would say please bring it forward properly and stop picking on charity shops who are trying to collect money for charitable causes.”
l Staff at Cancer Research say the stink bomber is about 5ft 6in tall, of stocky build, has grey hair and sometimes wears a hoodie.