A GANG of raiders armed with crowbars stole cash and cigarettes after breaking their way in to a shop in Colchester.

A group of men used the tools to smash a large window and force their way in to the Costcutter store via a Post Office counter inside, at around 1.20am on Tuesday morning.

Once inside, the men stole an unknown amount of cash and packets of cigarettes from the Homefield Road premises.

The gang, who were dressed in all-black, then fled the scene in a BMW which had been parked nearby.

Ward councillor Vic Flores labelled the crooks “despicable” and offered his support to staff.

He said: “I had not heard anything about it until now.

“It is a shock to hear about it taking place in this area and it is right where a lot of people congregate and park to take their children to school.

“The area is a bit of a hub for the community.

“It is awful and it is obviously worrying for the families of the people who live around the area and use the store on a daily basis.

“My thoughts are with everyone who works at the Post Office and the Costcutter store too.

“It will be worrying for them and I hope the people who use it are not too badly affected by any reduction in services.

“If anybody has any information I would urge them to contact the police and do the right thing as soon as possible.”

The store is owned by facilities management company Sodexo, which manages several sites on Colchester Garrison.

A spokesman said: "We are working closely with the police in their investigation to help identify and capture those responsible.

"The shop is open for business as normal, however the post office remains closed until further notice.”

The store was open as usual yesterday, however, repairs will need to be made to the windows smashed by the crooks.

A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed officers are investigating the burglary and appealed for any witnesses to come forward.

He said: “A group of men broke into the premises in Homefield Road at around 1.20am on Tuesday armed with crowbars.

“The men are described as being dressed in all black and left in a black BMW 520D.

“Cash and cigarettes were taken.

“If you saw or heard anything, have any CCTV or dashcam footage or have any information, please call us on 101 quoting reference number 42/19197/19.”

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.