Park cafe and children’s play centre in Highbury Fields both vandalised

Volunteer Julia Dace and owner Yehia El-Nemer at Oasis in the Park cafe

Volunteer Julia Dace and owner Yehia El-Nemer at Oasis in the Park cafe - Credit: Archant

The owner of a park café has complained of a lack of security after his business and the play centre opposite were ransacked by vandals.

Staff at the Oasis in the Park café and the nearby Bandstand play club in the middle of Highbury Fields arrived last Saturday morning to find chaotic scenes after overnight break-ins.

The raiders rifled through cupboards at the play centre, which is a charity, and at the café they tried to get into the till and a collection box that raises cash for toys.

It is not the first time the premises have been targeted and their managers would like to see better security measures in the park.

Yehia El-Nemer, 63, who has run Oasis since 2005, said: “They break in every year and last year it happened twice. It’s distressing, I had to close the business to tidy everything up and it could affect my reputation.

“We need lighting and CCTV around here and patrols at night, but the council says there’s no money.”

Both premises are owned by the council. Burglary squad officers are investigating, although the culprits made off empty-handed.

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Julia Dace, 46, who volunteers at the café, providing toys to children, said: “They wrenched the shutters open with a scaffolding pole.

“They trashed the place and they were after money, but both the cash desk and the donation box had been emptied.

“This is such a nice community and you don’t expect things like this to happen, but they do because there’s no security around here.

We need CCTV, we need lighting and we need proper grilles, because the shutters around the café are too flimsy.” She added: “The council looks after all its other buildings, so why not this one?”

Bandstand manager Sam Parrington said: “They completely ransacked the place.

“It happens every year, even though there’s nothing to steal here.

“It took us two days to clean it all up. It’s frustrating that there’s no money for these buildings to be secured.”

An Islington Council spokesman said: “We condemn the vandalism and appeal for witnesses to contact police.

“Parks staff went down to help on Saturday, as soon as we heard. Our park guards regularly patrol Highbury Fields, and dealt with 30 incidents of all kinds in January.

“We are looking at options to improve the site, though of course our budgets are currently under a lot of pressure.”

n Anyone with information should ring police on 020 7421 0192 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.