WOULD-BE fuel thieves evaded police during a high-speed chase.

They drove the wrong way down a one-way street and caused a three-car collision.

Police were called to the Benfield Way industrial area, Braintree, on Thursday at 6.50pm after reports three men were trying to steal fuel from other vehicles.

A police spokesman said: “They were believed to have then driven off in a white Ford Fiesta.

“What is believed to be the same vehicle was subsequently spotted by officers in town and was in collision with two vehicles in the High Street area.

“Police then followed the car along Manor Street, before several men were seen to get out of the vehicle in Maltings View and run off. Police carried out a search of the area and the helicopter was also called to assist.”

The suspects are believed to have headed towards the Station Approach area, but were lost from view.

Witnesses Tony Kirby, 31 said: “I was working in High Street when the police chase came through from Fountain End the wrong way at high speed.”

Mum Diane Hill, of St Vincent Chase, Braintree, said: “Police were everywhere and Keeble Way was blocked by a police car so you couldn’t go down that road.”

Former Witham Rickstones School pupil Nikki Crow said: “The helicopter was shining the light in the back gardens of houses between Station Approach and the telephone exchange. I was watching it from my window. There were police there too, shining torches in sheds at the same houses.”

The vehicles involved in the High Street collision were a Renault Megane and a Kia.

One of the drivers suffered slight injuries.