“BE READY – we be back” – that was the badly-written threat scrawled by thieves who wreaked havoc at Popham Airfield.
Dick Richardson, manager at the airfield off the A303, arrived on Monday morning to find the offices, clubroom and a hangar were “decimated” with items thrown around, fire extinguishers set off, aircraft windows smashed and a flood caused by the taps being left on.
The burglars and vandals stole a number of items, including tools, televisions and repair equipment. A number of charity boxes were taken along with members’ items of sentimental value.
The offices, where staff manage the membership of 500 people at the flying club, were without telephone or radio because the electrical power had also been vandalised. CCTV footage caught the culprits on camera and the images are shown here in the hope they will be recognised.
Mr Richardson, 74, said: “It’s largely vandalism. We came in to find they had used a spade to break a window and get access. There were four people involved we think and they broke everything.
“They opened up all the coffee machines and left all the freezers open and threw around tubs of syrup and turned the taps on, blocked sinks and wrote graffiti.”
Mr Richardson estimates that the burglars escaped with around £100 in cash, but has not yet added up the cost of the damage.
There are also serious concerns that the vandals could have tampered with the aircraft.
Barry Costin, who has been a pilot at Popham since 1989, said: “We don’t know what these people have done to the aircraft. What these toe-rags have done is more than just vandalism – it is putting people’s lives at risk.” The vandals may have tampered with fuel tanks or control surfaces, he said.
The 66-year-old, from Basingstoke, who has a Piper PA-28 four-seat aircraft, added: “If someone has interfered and we go flying, something could go wrong.” He said a thorough check for his aircraft will be necessary at a cost of £250.
Mr Richardson said the vandalism had also affected the airfield’s charity work with Starlight Foundation, which supports children with serious and terminal illnesses.
Mr Richardson said: “It was unbelievable. We have had to try to carry on working.”