A Hertfordshire-based retailer was robbed at knife point on the first morning the face mask law came into effect in England.

Nilesh Patel’s wife, Rikki Patel, of RNP News in Hatfield, was held at knife point by a masked and gloved male at 6.30am on 24 July. £100 was stolen from the till.

Nilesh said: “I was at home while my wife Rikki was opening the store. It was the first morning of the new Covid-19 face mask regulations in English stores.

“The hooded attacker entered the store with a mask on and dawdled around the shop for a moment before approaching the till and attacking Rikki. Rikki immediately held her hands up, and opened the till.

“As soon as the attacker left the shop, a council worker noticed the commotion and rushed into the store to aid Rikki. They called the police straight away and Rikki had already pushed the panic button.”

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Rikki praised the quick response of the police who arrived within 15 minutes of being called.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from the police. They arrived straight away, immediately took a criminal profile and radioed the information in to other officers,” she said.

Nilesh added that the face mask rule meant it was easier for the criminal to go unnoticed.

“Because of the new regulations and the risks involved you can’t tell who is genuine and who is not, so it’s far easier for criminals to go unnoticed,” he said.

“I understand that the government has made face masks compulsory to protect everyone against Covid-19, but why now instead of when the virus was at its peak?”

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NFRN national president Stuart Reddish condemned the attack. He said: “Retailers face verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis, with attacks like that at Nilesh’s store being all too frequent.

“It is unfortunate that the steps being taken to protect the local community during the coronavirus pandemic have also helped this criminal protect their identity when committing this appalling attack.”

He reinforced how the new face covering legislation makes it easier for criminals to commit crime.

“The new face mask regulations in England and Scotland undoubtedly make it easier for attackers to commit crimes against retailers,” he said.

“Although the police responded fantastically to this incident, we are still urging for more police support. Criminals need to know that they will be stopped – regardless of the new face mask laws.”

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