DESPICABLE thieves who stole six charity boxes from businesses within a matter of minutes have been jailed.

Paul Batterbee ,40, and Jamie Darby, 39, broke into a hardware store in High Street, Earls Colne, in the early hours of the morning on April 4.

Once inside they nabbed five boxes which had collections for good causes inside.

And just 20 minutes later they broke into the Co-op in Swan Street, Sible Hedingham and stole another charity box as well as cigarettes worth thousands of pounds.

The burglars used a stolen car which was tracked by police to Eastern Avenue, Haverhill, where Baterbee lives.

Police spotted a crowbar inside one of the vehicles, noticed lights in the home were still on and went into the house where the pair were arrested and they were found cigarettes and charity tins.

Investigating officer PC Leila Sandford, of Braintree CID, said: "​Batterbee and Darby targeted two businesses in the early hours of the morning before driving off with six charity boxes and a large amount of cigarettes in a stolen vehicle.

“Following some quick thinking, we were able to locate the vehicle to a street in Haverhill before our officers’ intuition took over.

“Both men were arrested and the stolen charity boxes and cigarettes were discovered simply because they left a light on in a dark street.

“They have both since been sent to prison for breaking into businesses and stealing the generous donations of their customers.”

Batterbee was jailed for 27 months after admitting two counts of burglary.

Darby, of Westfield, Clare received 28 months after admitting the burglaries, theft of car keys and taking a vehicle without consent.