THERE were scenes of outrage and disbelief when families visited a failed Worcester storage company to discover just what remained of their treasured possessions.
The gates of Guardian Self Storage in Sherriff Street Industrial Estate were finally unlocked after several weeks yesterday and dozens of anxious customers queued up for the chance to retrieve their belongings.
The lucky ones filled up their cars and vans and were on their way. But many more arrived to find their possessions had disappeared without a trace.
As some stood stony-faced and teary-eyed in disbelief, others used torches to forage around in the unlit building hoping to find their valuables.
There were similar scenes in the storage yard outside, where containers stood open and emptied, forced padlocks littering the ground alongside piles of items that were once safely secured.
Jeanette Weir, of Droitwich, only realised what was happening after reading about it in your Worcester News. She said there was no trace of the furniture, collectibles and treasured personal items – many of them reminders of her husband, who died earlier this year – that had been stored with Guardian for the last three years.
“It just feels like everything has been ripped out from underneath me,” she said. “It was my life in there. How can you put a price on things like that?”
She said police had told her it was a civil matter and that a representative from liquidator Butcher Woods had been able to do little more than take her name and contact details.
“There doesn’t seem to be anyone actually able to help us,” she said.
Police were at the site yesterday and have reassured people that the matter is being investigated and treated seriously.
Worcester city inspector Janet Heritage said: “We have received some complaints from people that have had property stored at Guardian Self Storage.
“I want to reassure property owners that we are taking these reports seriously. A police officer has been appointed to look into the incidents.
“Enquiries will be made with several people to try to establish what has happened and if there are any police-related offences.
“If there are, the appropriate action will then be taken.”
A representative of the site’s owners, who had arranged for it to be unlocked, was helping out and said he sympathised with those who had stored things there. He said: “We are trying to help them retrieve their items.
“But we only rented the site to Guardian. We only found out last week that people had stuff in here.”
Worcestershire Regulat-ory Services chief Steve Jorden said an officer visited the site this week and that the mattter is now in the hands of administrators. He said: “If goods are missing then claims need to be made through the administrator. Consumers can also check if Guardian Storage has insurance.
“If goods have been removed and an intent to steal them can be shown, then this would be a police matter. However, consumers may have issues in proving what goods were stored if they have not booked them into the storage container or if they don’t have a log.”
No one from Butcher Woods, which was appointed as liquidator on Friday, October 26, was available to comment.
Graham Bradbury, managing director of Guardian Self Storage, could not be contacted yesterday.
Earlier this week he told your Worcester News he had no interest in discussing the matter.
A Young Worcester couple with an 18-month-old son have seen their dreams of buying their own home disappear after losing almost everything they own.
Alex Harrison, aged 30, and his fiance Jenny Speak, 28, put their possessions under lock and key with Guardian Self Storage in February. They have since been living with Miss Speak’s mother in Nunnery, Worcester, while saving every spare penny to buy their own house to share with their son Arlo.
Miss Speak said: “We’ve lost clothes, furniture, all of my little boy’s things and even precious keepsakes from when he was born.
“We literally have nothing left. It really is a whole house worth of stuff and it will cost us all the money we have saved just to replace it.”
She said they only discovered what was going on with their things by chance when they called by to pick up some clothes for a wedding.
“We found it locked up and spoke to the owner, who told us, ‘no comment’. We had a feeling that our things would no longer be here and today has just confirmed the worst,” she said.
Mr Harrison called West Mercia Police and said he believed they had to pursue a criminal investigation.
“It is just like having your house burgled and something has to be done,” he said.
A Worcester businessman said he was amazed by the scenes that unfolded at Guardian Self Storage yesterday.
Chris Fredericks, managing director of Discount Carpet Warehouse in Sherriff Street had about £8,000 of tools and equipment stored there.
But they have now vanished, along with countless personal items and photographs.
He said: “I was told that all the containers were still here but that is clearly not the case. All the locks have been cut and it seems that someone has just offloaded whatever they could and then got out.
“I was amazed to see so many people down here all in the same boat. I thought it might be half a dozen or so, but I must have seen about 100 people here.”
He says customers caught up in the firm’s liquidation have not been getting enough support. He said: “Nobody is giving me any answers. Everyone seems to be saying that someone else is responsible. What about all the people who have not heard that this was going on today? What will happen with them?”