Discovered on a woods road leading into the Neponset meadows, Norwood, at 11 a. m., by, Norwood police, three men who staged a sensational safe robbery, at the Pepsi-Cola plant, Soldiers Field road, and Western av., last night, escaped by automobile in a hail of bullets, but abandoned the stolen safe containing between $4000 and $5000.
When night watchman George McKenzie came to work at the Pepsi-Cola plant at Soldiers Field Road and Western av., Brighton, at 10 last night, he found three dark, young men calmly working away on the company safe with an acetylene torch.
“Drop that light!” they barked at him, fired two shots past his head, roped him into a chair, asked him if any cops came around, and coolly went ahead for two hours cutting the “core” of the safe out of its steel and concrete shell.
Following the escape of the trio in Norwood this morning police of Norwood. Dedham, Walpole, Canton, Needham, Westwood, and Boston intensified their search for the men. They were believed headed for Boston as they were reported seen going through Dedham.
When their safe-breaking job was done at about midnight last night, the three masked youths placed the safe onto a conveyor and loaded it into a red, white and blue Pepsi-Cola truck. They helped themselves to some tools and welding equipment in the plant shop, told McKenzie to keep his trap shut, took off their masks and gloves, lighted cigarettes and drove away. Hundreds of Sunday night automobile drivers were passing by on the Metropolitan parkway.
It took McKenzie three hours to work himself loose from the chair they had tied him into. At 3 a. m. he rushed into the Western Av. Fire Station, pale and shaking. Firemen called the police. After hearing the details police figured the whole thing as evidently the work of the same trio which had done acetylene torch jobs in Norwood, Dedham and Quincy.
They had brought two 125-pound torch tanks, containing oxygen and gas, to the Pepsi-Cola plant, and left them behind when they scrammed.
Early this morning police reported they had found the Pepsi-Cola truck abandoned in Norwood, the same town in which a truck was found abandoned after the Back Bay safe job, last week.
It was about 11 o’clock that the men were discovered on the woods road by patrolman Francis Riley of the Norwood police. He radioed for assistance. Riley, from a distance observed the men trying to open the stolen safe.
When patrolmen Edison Scholtz, James Quinn, and William Lydon arrived at the scene, they drove down the road toward the robbers. The three men spotted the police car, jumped into the front seat of their four-door sedan, and turned it around so that they were headed in the opposite direction.
Patrolmen Quinn and Lydon opened fire with their revolvers but the men made their escape although tearing the muffler and a mudguard off their car. Police recovered the safe containing the loot, acetylene tank and torch and other burglar tools with which the men were trying to open the safe.
The stolen property was turned over to a detail of Brighton police headed by Capt William Donovan who sped to the scene and took the property back to Brighton.
The trio must have broken into the plant sometime after dark and before 10. McKenzie, who is 69, and lives at 18 Flint st., Somerville, says that one of the yeggs fired two shots at him and he was tackled by two of them when he attempted to run.
One of the men stood over him with a gun until they completed their work about midnight.
They had entered the plant yard by breaking the lock on an outer gate. A door to the shipping room was forced and other doors to suites of offices and other parts of the plant were broken open until they reached the paymaster’s office. They then set to work with the torches on the safe.
Two of the trio worked on the safe until they burned off the outer steel shell and then hauled out the core of the safe. This core was carried to the shipping room and put on the plants conveyor and raised to a loading platform. Then it was placed aboard a company delivery truck. The thieves left behind the! safe breaking equipment they had brought but went to the workroom and stole comparatively new welding equipment and some sets of tools.
About $7500 in Safe
J. Bertram Frost, of Watertown, plant superintendent, and Loring D. Roberts, of Belmont, branch treasurer, were notified. Roberts said that there was between $4000 and $5000 in the safe Friday and that he believed that with Saturday’s receipts it contained about $7500, when carried away.
Sgt. Joseph F. Condon, of the B. C. I. and Sgt Francis P. Maguire of the Brighton station, directed the investigation. Fingerprint experts were also called, but the fact that the thieves used gloves would make it unlikely that any prints were left.
Doors throughout the offices were badly damaged when they were open. A small burn mark on the wall of the paymaster’s office showed where the safebreaker handling the acetylene torch “slipped” on one occasion. All four sides of the shell were burned through and the sides were bent outward so that the “core” could be removed.
The stolen truck, without the safe, was found abandoned at Pleasant and Nahatan Sts in Norwood about 7 this morning.
Last week, a new and undelivered City of Boston truck, with a safe which had been blown open, was also found in Norwood. The trunk and safe were stolen from the Lalime & Partridge, Inc., auto agency in the Back Bay. The safe had been blown open, but only about $100 was obtained in loot.
An acetylene unit was found in a stolen auto abandoned on Hancock St., in Quincy last Monday morning. Over the weekend an attempt was made to open the safe of a Stop and Shop store in Quincy, but the yeggs were apparently frightened away. The combination was knocked off the safe but it was not opened.
In recent weeks, several other safe thefts have been reported in the Greater Boston area.