Criminals on a shopping spree devastate family business
A BRAZEN burglary has "broken" a Finch Hatton family business, forcing them to close their doors forever.
Finch Hatton resident Chris Pollard's voice cracks as she announces the closure of the Upper Pioneer Valley's only service station,Valley Rural Services after 11 years of operation.
"We've weathered a lot of storms over 11 years," Mrs Pollard said.
"(But) this is just the straw that broke the camel's back.
"My daughter and I are gutted"
Mother-daughter team, Ms Pollard and her 21-year-old daughter Courtney Pollard, run a service station that provides the Pioneer Valley community with fuel, food and rural supplies.
Two weeks ago, on State of Origin night, the Finch Hatton service station was targeted in what the Pollards described as an organised overnight raid.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said employees at Valley Rural Services returned to work on Monday June 24 to find the front door forced open and the shelves stripped.
Mrs Pollard said the wall cigarettes behind the counter had been picked bare, and cash had been pulled from the register.
She said the thieves grabbed more than 25 different items, stealing everything from lollipops to electronics, including dog food, cold and flu tablets and halogen globes.
The sweet-toothed thieves also raided a freezer filled with Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, leaving behind only three tubs of strawberry cheesecake.
"They've literally been shopping," Mrs Pollard said.
Mrs Pollard said she suspected the thieves filled milk crates, dust bins and garbage bags with everything on their grocery list.
The police spokesman said the investigation was continuing, but admitted there was insufficient forensic evidence, no CCTV and no current suspects. Police were not certain how many people were involved, he said.
"Police always remain optimistic that these matters will be resolved," he added.
Mrs Pollard said it took two weeks to tally the tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock losses.
While insurance will cover some of their costs, she said exorbitant insurance premiums for items like cigarettes mean $15,000 of the losses will be out of the family's pocket.
This burden too much for the Pollards, and the financial strain and stress has forced them to close the service station.
"I'm just broken. I can't do it any more," Mrs Pollard said.
"The stress of it all was going to put me in an early grave".
For the next two months, the Valley Rural Services will holda clearance sale to get rid of the remaining stock in a last ditch attempt to break even after the burglary.
It's heartbreaking for her 21-year-old daughter, who said she had spent half her life in the family store.
"I will miss my locals that have supported us," Miss Pollard said.
"I see these people everyday. I've had them crying on my shoulder"
"I'm absolutely gutted".
Closing the community's only service station "will devastate the community," her mother said.
The Finch Hatton community will now have to travel more than half an hour into Marian to refuel, and all the way to Mackay to pick up some rural supplies, she said.
After seeing the devastation of last year's fires Mrs Pollard said she was concerned for what might happen in the next natural disaster.
"They will already be under a lot of stress, and then they'll have to go into Marian for their generator fuel," Mrs Pollard said.