THIEVES stole a realistic looking replica assault rifle during a raid on a Colchester shop.

The weapon – an airgun designed to look like a modern German Army-issue Heckler and Koch G36 rifle – was taken from Hanger 39, a militaria and army surplus show in Osborne Street, on Tuesday night.

Owner Mark Watson said: “A tool was used to cut the glass, which then smashed.

“A number of items, including an Airsoft system, in the form of the German-issued assault weapon G36 – were stolen from the window display.”

The weapon is so realistic owners need a licence to have one and police are keen to see it recovered as soon as possible.

Mr Watson said: “We came in on the Wednesday and nobody noticed at first, until we felt a draught.

“Then we saw the weapon was missing.”

The stolen gun and accessories, which are used by enthusiasts for realistic war games, are said to be worth about £300. The raiders did about £100 damage to the window.

Mr Watson said: “You need a licence to buy, sell and own these and people could easily mistake it for a real gun.”

He added the shop sold the guns because it also ran a wargaming venue called Bunker 39, in Rowhedge.

The shop also sells made-tomeasure military uniforms to soldiers serving at the town’s garrison, as well as used military items, such as swords, medals and uniforms.

Mr Watson said he felt crime in an area was a serious and worsening problem. He added: “This is the first time in two years we have had anything like this and it is really frustrating.

“I generally believe people are honest, but more things seem to be happening in Colchester. I’m worried.

“There is supposed to be CCTV in Osborne Street, but what is it picking up?

Police have appealed for information about the break-in, which happened between 5.30pm on Tuesday and 9.20am on Wednesday.

Anyone who can help is asked to call Colchester police on 101.