POLICE are hunting a gang that they believe could be behind a string of burglaries and ramraids.

In the latest incident thieves drove a car into a newsagents, stealing up to £3,000 worth of cigarettes.

Detectives are looking at whether this raid could be linked to other burglaries and another ramraid, where thieves escaped with £10,000.

Three men wearing hoodies reversed a green Rover Metro into the front of the Martin’s store in the Lordshill district centre, bashing the shutters and damaging them enough so they could get in.

They stole cigarettes, worth between £2,000 and £3,000 in the burglary, which happened at 3.20am yesterday.

The stolen Metro was abandoned at the scene and the thieves are believed to have made off in a stolen blue Ford Escort van, which was later found abandoned in Bindon Close, Shirley Warren.

They are then thought to have left Bindon Close in a white Ford Escort, which was found later in Coxford Close.

The blue Escort van may have been used during the theft of food from a burger van parked at Wicks Building Supplies in Winchester Road, Southampton, some time between Wednesday night and early on Thursday.

Yesterday police cars were parked outside Martin’s and an officer was stationed at the front of the shop. The damage where the shutters had been forced back could clearly be seen.

Pat Owens, store duty manager, said her boss had received a call when the alarm went off and had arrived to find police at the scene.

She said the front of the shop had suffered structural damage and it remained closed yesterday morning as forensics teams carried out work inside. It is not known when the shop will re-open.

Police said they are looking at a possible link with a number of other burglaries at convenience stores and garages since October, including a ramraid at West End Service Station, where a masked gang member leapt over the counter and tackled a frightened worker after a stolen car was reversed into the Swaythling Road petrol station.

CCTV from the ramraid at West End Service Station.

Detectives investigating the latest incident want to hear from anyone who saw any of the three vehicles on Thursday night or at any time yesterday or saw men getting out of them.

Witnesses can call Shirley CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.