ARMED crooks smashed their way into a convenience store to steal £5,000 worth of cigarettes.

Two men are believed to have forced their way into Chalvedon Supermarket, in Chalvedon Square, Basildon, during the early morning raid.

The crooks opened a shutter on the front of the shop before smashing a wooden front door in order to get in.

Furious owner, Bipin Patel, said he and his staff now feel unsafe in their business.

He said: “It happened at about 2.30am and we got the call and rushed down there.

“I am very angry about what’s happened and I think it’s two men who live in this area.

“They smashed the doors to the shop and took the cigarettes.

“We are now feeling unsafe after what has happened here at our business.”

Mr Patel said he believed the men responsible are “still hanging around the area”.

The 57-year-old added: “We’ve been here about 18 years now and have had a few issues in the past. We are working hard to build up our business and trade and now someone comes along and does this and takes it away.

“The police have been informed and are yet to come out to see us.”

Mr Patel said he cannot believe what has happened at his shop and it’ll take him a long time to get back the stock that was taken in the break-in.

The family were forced to shut the shop until noon due to the break-in.

They say residents have been giving the shop owners information about the thieves.

Residents have blasted the pair of crooks who targeted the popular shop.

Betty Turpin, 61, of Beambridge, said: “I can’t believe what’s happened here.

“The people who run this shop are the nicest people.

“They are always so lovely and always take the time to have a chat and make my son laugh.

“It’s always the decent people who things like this happen to.

“It’s always the few people who who want to spoil it for the rest of us, it’s so selfish.”

Peter Burrows, 44, added: “I am sick of these disgusting people who are intent on ruining peoples’ lives.

“We cannot put up with this and I believe the owners and police know who did this so I really hope that the police catch them very soon.

“We cannot have these people running riot and going around doing this sort of thing in our community.”

A spokesman for Essex Police said: "Police were contacted at approximately 3.20am on Friday 29 November following reports of a break-in at a supermarket in Chalvedon Square, Pitsea.

"An investigation is now underway and anyone with information can contact Essex Police on 101."