CIGARETTE thieves have struck in yet another raid on a Hampshire convenience store.

This time a gang smashed their way through a security shutter of a Co-operative store in Bitterne, Southampton, before making off with an unknown quantity of goods.

Police have launched an appeal for witnesses to the break-in in Wodehouse Road.

Their call for information comes a day after it was revealed how officers became involved in a dramatic highspeed pursuit with a motorbike gang, who stole cigarettes by smashing the window of a shop in North Baddesley.

The trio escaped by fleeing the scene of the theft at the Co-op in Botley Road on a motorcycle, evading a roadblock and then managing to lose police, who followed them to Southampton.

Police were called to the Co-op store in Botley Road at 3am on Wednesday to find the gang making their getaway, having smashed through a glass door. A roadblock was set up on Rownhams Lane, but the thieves managed to ride around it, prompting officers to give chase.

They tailed the gang through Rownhams and into the Lordshill area of Southampton, where they lost track of the suspects at Fair Isle Road.

Last night it was not clear whether that theft was linked to the Wodehouse Road incident, which happened two days earlier on Monday at 10pm.

But police are linking the drama to other thefts at shops across the county, including one at Martin’s Newsagents in Romsey’s Cornmarket last June.

Other cigarette raids that have taken place recently include a 90-second smash and grab by a hooded gang at Testwood Stores in Freemantle, Southampton, in September.

The Shell Select garage in Winchester Road, Chandler’s Ford, was also targeted in March last year with cigarettes worth thousands of pounds taken.

Witnesses to the Bitterne theft should call PC Marsha Brown at Bitterne CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.