AN Exeter shop owner believes a firearm was used in what he fears was an attempted burglary.
Jeff Channon, who runs the Whipton Craft and Model Shop, discovered a neat hole in the quarter inch thick plate glass window of the store in Thackeray Road, Whipton.
Mr Channon and his wife Di, who live just a few hundred yards away, were alerted by the sound of the shop's burglar alarm.
The couple, who have run the shop for more than 12 years, called the police and rushed to find out what had happened.
Mr Channon said: "It looked like an attempted burglary, but it was odd in that there was a perfect hole, big enough to put your finger through in the glass.
"It is quarter inch thick plate glass, so it's quite hefty but whatever was used was powerful enough to go right through the window, through the secondary plastic glazing and into the shop.
"I found the piece of glass inside. Luckily although the glass cracked it did not break and whoever did it was not able to get in.
"The window will have to be replaced and that's quite an expense but at least they didn't get any stock."
Mrs Channon said the incident was the third of its kind at Christmas time.
"In the first one the thieves smashed a door and escaped with £800 worth of stock and in the second they threw a breeze block through the shop door window," she said.
"We have now had to put bars on the door which is a shame for a model shop but what can you do? I think whoever did this may have been lucky because if that glass had fallen on them it would have cut them to pieces."
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said officers were quickly on the scene and established that no entry had been gained.
"There was a small hole in the window which may have been caused by implements or an air rifle. It really is 'cause unknown' at this stage.
"At the moment we are treating the matter as criminal damage and would ask that anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious near the shop to contact 101 and quote crime number DE/12/12594."