A GANG of masked burglars smashed through the window of a supermarket to steal cigarettes.

The Co-op in Earls Colne High Street was targeted overnight when three burglars tore off the metal grills to access a window and door.

The three men with their faces covered forced entry into the store before breaking into cabinets and stealing a large quantity of cigarettes.

The raid happened at about 2am on Saturday May 6 and after stealing the cigarettes they then drove away from the scene in a blue car, believed to be an Audi or a BMW.

Police have just released details of the incident and have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Ian Sparks, vice chairman of the parish council, said stronger doors and windows were needed to deter thieves.

He said: “It has been targeted before about three years ago. It is an unusual occurrence in the village but it’s not unusual that Co-ops are being targeted.

“The only way they are going to stop a burglary is to have much stronger doors and the cigarette area needs to be highly secure.

“They had smashed a window and door and I’m surprised they haven’t been replaced yet. It is all boarded up.”

Residents were left angered at the news but he said the building is in a conservation area and cannot be modernised easily.

A spokesman for the East of England Co-op said they have updated security measures whilst being sympathetic to the fabric of the building and surrounding areas.

Mr Sparks said although the news spread quickly around the village, following a spate of burglaries and robberies at Co-op shops across the district it was not a surprise.

The Co-op in Broadway, Silver End, was targeted by armed robbers on Sunday and it led to calls for better security.

Police are now appealing for witnesses following the burglary at the Co-op in Earls Colne.

One suspect is reported to be wearing a light Adidas hoodie with stripes and matching bottoms and another suspect is believed to have worn dark trousers and a dark green coat.

Anyone with information is asked to contact PC Toby Daniel at Braintree police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.