10/04/2012 18:29 BST

Victoria Ratheram Attack May Have Been Mistaken Identity

A pregnant mother who was tied to a chair by machete-wielding burglars may have been the victim of mistaken identity, detectives have said.

West Mercia Police said officers were still investigating the motive for last Thursday's raids on the home of Victoria Ratheram and another property in the Shropshire village of Wollerton.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards, the head of Shropshire CID, said: "We don't believe this was an incident carried out randomly.

"It's possible the home of the pregnant lady was mistakenly identified by the offenders."

Officers believe the raiders moved from Mrs Ratheram's cottage to the neighbouring premises, where a teenage boy suffered a cut to his hand as he tried to protect his mother.

Renewing an appeal for witnesses and information, Mr Edwards added: "We are still investigating the motive for the attacks but at this stage we do not think they were random.

"This was a violent and terrifying experience for the victims at the two homes. Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured but they were subjected to a horrifying ordeal.

"I am appealing for any information which might help us trace these men before they strike again."

Three men wielding a machete and what is described as a bat or truncheon burst into their homes in Wollerton, near Market Drayton, just before 9am last Thursday.

No-one suffered serious injuries, but Mrs Ratheram was tied to a chair in front of her three-year-old son by the gang, who fled with a small amount of stolen property in a black Land Rover Discovery taken from one of the homes.

The vehicle was found within half an hour with its engine still running on the outskirts of the village and police believe the men then drove off in a silver saloon car parked in a nearby lay-by.

Mr Edwards said West Mercia Police were working with neighbouring forces - including North Wales, Merseyside, Staffordshire and West Midlands - as it was possible the gang members were not from Shropshire.

Urging people to come forward with information, the officer noted: "These men confronted vulnerable people in their own homes and the sooner they are arrested the better.

"They resorted to violence in what were cowardly crimes."

Describing her ordeal, Mrs Ratheram told ITV1's Daybreak programme she was freed only when a neighbour called at her cottage.

The 28-year-old, who is just weeks from giving birth, said she had tried to remain calm after being threatened by three men who tied her up as they searched for a safe.

Speaking from her home, Mrs Ratheram told Daybreak she was confronted by the raiders after going to her front door when her dog started barking.

"They just came in," she said. "One with a machete and one with an old-style wooden police truncheon. They threatened my dogs and threatened me and my son and told us to do as we were told.

"They asked for a safe and I was tied up in the hall as they ransacked the house and searched.

"Then I was moved into the nursery when they didn't find a safe, and tied to a chair with my dog in the room and my son.

"They closed the door and left me there - I was there for quite a while and my dog tried to chew through my ties and I was freed when a neighbour came round and luckily opened the door and saw I was there and helped cut me free."

Asked if she had feared for her life, Mrs Ratheram replied: "I was absolutely terrified - the only thing I can say is I suppose you go into a mothering instinct - you go completely numb and the only thing that matters is your children.

"As far as I was concerned I needed to stay calm ... relaxed so that I didn't give off any bad vibes to my son and didn't put myself under any additional stress than I was already under."

Anyone with information should contact Shrewsbury or Oswestry CID on 0300 333 3000. Information can also be passed on anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.