A WINCHCOMBE shop owner collapsed and was rushed to hospital shortly after thieves stole an estimated £15,000 worth of jewellery from her store.

A shocked and distressed Suzanne Rafferty, who runs Fifty-o-Fifty in North Street, suffered an asthma attack and almost died following the raid last week.

“I couldn’t get my Ventolin. I keeled over and my heart stopped. My assistant saved my life by giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” said Mrs Rafferty, whose shop specialises in antique and modern jewellery and antique clothes.

A Winchcombe community first responder gave Mrs Rafferty oxygen before she was taken to Cheltenham General Hospital. She was allowed to return home later that evening. The drama unfolded shortly before 3pm last Tuesday.

Mrs Rafferty had brought three suitcases of jewellery to the shop, which she had collected the previous Sunday from customers who wanted to sell.

She had taken the cases from a strongroom before a meeting with a potential client. Soon after she had to pop out to pay a bill, leaving her female assistant in charge.

At this point two men, believed to be Eastern European, came into the shop waving a wad of £50 and £20 notes and asking if they had anything to suit a man.

As the assistant took the men towards the back of the shop, they saw the suitcases, opened one and tipped the contents on the floor before rifling through the jewellery.

“The older man was rifling through the jewellery while the younger man stood guard at the door,” said Mrs Rafferty.

The men, who were both about 5ft 5in tall and of slim build, left the shop with 24 items of jewellery, including gold, diamonds and emeralds and a vintage moonstone necklace, and headed up North Street on foot.

Mrs Rafferty, who described the thieves as “despicable”, said that £6,800 worth of the haul belonged to clients and the rest belonged to her. None if it was insured and she said the shop would pay a reward of between 20 and 30 per cent of the value of any items recovered.

One of the men is thought to be in his 30s and was wearing a light brown jacket. He had dark medium length hair, which was brushed back. The second man appeared to be in his 40s.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Gloucestershire Constabulary on 0845 0901234 quoting incident number 262 of November 23 or Crimestoppers anonymously Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.