POLICE foiled a dramatic ram raid attack on Huddersfield's £50m Kingsgate Centre today.
They arrested three men and are hunting a fourth after the raid ended with one policeman hurt as the raiders made a desperate bid to escape.
It emerged this morning that the town's retail radio system meant police were alerted in seconds and managed to swoop quickly while the raid was still going on.
Three vehicles were driven straight through the front doors to the prestigious centre shortly after 4.45am.
A BMW smashed through the glass doors and was driven straight up the long mall, followed by a Subaru Impreza and a white van.
The three vehicles screamed along the white walkway to a cash dispenser near the Beatties store.
The intruders were trying to load the dispenser into the back of the van when the first police arrived.
The four men jumped into the Impreza and then sped back down through the centre, but officers had blocked the exit with patrol cars.
The Impreza was brought to a halt in a crash with a police car and one of the first officers on the scene - a detective from Huddersfield CID - is thought to have been struck by the Impreza.
Two men were arrested inside the centre and a third nearby.
A fourth escaped.
The injured detective was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary suffering from a gash to his head and bruises.
He had stitches in the wound and was allowed home.
Huddersfield town centre CCTV manager Terry Jepson said a security guard at Kingsgate raised the alarm immediately on the town's retail radio system which links shops directly with the police and CCTV operators.
Det Insp Steve Hepplestone, of Huddersfield CID, said: "There was a collision as the people in the centre tried to escape.
"The three arrested men are in their early 20s and come from the Bradford area.
"They are being questioned at Huddersfield police station and inquiries are going on to trace the fourth person."
The three vehicles used in the ram raid were all recovered by police.
Kingsgate manager Jonathan Hardy said
Large planters were being put at the entrance to Kingsgate today to make it impossible for vehicles to get in.
He said that the centre's disaster plan swung straight into action as soon as he got the call at 5am about the ram raid.
"We had a team of cleaners and builders who began the clear-up operation as soon as the scenes of crime officers had finished their work," he said.
"It meant we could open to shoppers as usual at 8.30am, which was a tremendous achievement by all concerned."
He said all the front doors would have to be replaced and the final bill for the damage could run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Shoppers spoke of their shock at the brazen attempt to raid the centre.
Jenny Watson, of Fartown, had come to Kingsgate early to do her Christmas shopping.
She said: "I'm really shocked about it. You don't expect these kind of things to happen where you live."
Ben Walker, of Newsome, said: "It was a surprise. At least the shops are safe."
Kingsgate opened amid a blaze of publicity on March 1, 2002 following an 18-month building programme.
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