'It breaks our hearts': truck crashes into Edmonton strip mall in suspected jewelry theft

Two business owners in a strip mall in south Edmonton are waking up to thousands of dollars in repairs after a truck smashed through walls in what police believe was an attempt to break into a jewelry story.

'I don't know what to think even. What can you do? … I'm shocked'

Stolen truck driven through restaurant next to jewelry store

5 years ago
Police think thieves tried to smash their way into VJ Jewellers through a common wall with the restaurant. 0:29

Sue Bagga is shaken.

Her jewelry store is surrounded by debris and broken glass after a truck smashed a gaping hole in the building early Wednesday morning, in what police believe was an attempted theft.

It's the seventh time since opening in 1989 that VJ Jewellers has been targeted by thieves, Bagga said.

In 1995, someone cut the alarm system before ransacking the place. Everything in the south Edmonton store — diamonds, 14-karat-gold rings, and all the cash in the safe — was taken.
"It's six or seven times it has happened. It breaks our hearts," said Sue Bagga, owner of VJ Jewellers. (CBC)

Once, her husband Vijay was pepper sprayed and beaten so badly by three men he had to have surgery for a broken shoulder.

Two years ago, a truck drove through the front window, but the alarm system scared off the suspects before they could steal anything.

Since then, they've installed extra security systems and re-framed the store with cement posts and extra girders in attempt to protect their business.

Left feeling helpless

Now that it has happened again, Bagga feels helpless.

"It's very tough. It's six or seven times that it has happened. It breaks our hearts, but we stand up again with the community's help. But it's hurting, with people doing that kind of stuff."

Police were called to the small shopping centre near the corner of 92nd Street and 34th Avenue near the Strathcona Industrial Park around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A blue 2007 Ford pickup truck smashed through the glass of the Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen, ripping into a front wall and sending insulation, wooden beams and shards of glass flying through the dining room.

The suspects then fled in the heavily damaged truck, which was later located a few blocks from the mall. 

Police have determined the truck was stolen. No descriptions of any suspects are available at this time.

Police believe the crash was an attempt to break through the wall of the restaurant into the adjacent jewelry store. 

A vehicle smashed into a south Edmonton strip mall early Wednesday morning, causing significant damage. (Lydia Neufield/CBC Edmonton)
 Champa Pathirana, who has owned Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen for two years, rushed to her business to assess the damage shortly after police arrived.

"Somebody phoned me from the city police. They said somebody broke into your restaurant," said Pathirana. 

"I don't know what to think even. What can you do? … I'm shocked."

Pathirana's surveillance video shows a truck ramming into the front of her restaurant several times, she said. 

She has turned the footage over to police. She doesn't think the thieves were successful in stealing anything from her business.

Though her restaurant is insured, Pathirana was unsure when she would be able to open again.

"I don't know. Hopefully soon." 

With files from Lydia Neufield