A SUPERMARKET in Halstead was forced to close after a gang of thieves smashed their way into the store and snatched a cash machine.

Essex Police are investigating after the Co-op store in Weavers Court was raided in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Four thieves used a blue Transit van and a blue Nissan X-trail 4x4 to smash through the front doors of the store before they then took a free standing cash machine inside.

The men, who were wearing balaclavas, were then seen running a across the car park outside the store, before they left the scene via a dark saloon car and the transit used to break through the front doors.

Ally Hamer, a resident from Mill Bridge who witnessed the thieves leave the car park, said: "I went downstairs and could hear the alarm going off. I thought I would have a look and see.

"As I did that a dark blue van and black car screeched out of the car park. I wasn't really sure what was happening."

The transit used for the raid was discovered burnt out in Great Totham later on Tuesday morning.

The Co-op have since confirmed that the store has reopened following the raid.

Police have conducted investigations at the scene and are also reviewing CCTV images.

They are hoping to speak to two drivers who may have driven past the suspects along Factory Lane West just moments after the raid.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Christopher Sedgwick said: “Two cars were seen driving towards Factory Lane West at around the time the suspect vehicles were leaving the scene.

“It is possible these drivers may have information that could assist with my investigation, so I am keen to trace them."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Braintree CID quoting incident 19 of 21/11 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.