A MAN arrested following a widespread police manhunt could have been behind an attempted cigarette raid.

The suspect was caught by police in the back garden of a house in the Hillyfields area of Southampton following a hunt by air and on foot after officers spotted a black Kia Sedona speeding in Rownhams Road North.

The arrest was made little more than half an hour after a dark, 4x4-type vehicle, was spotted speeding away from a newsagents in the Bitterne area of the city following a botched cigarette break-in.

Now detectives hope the arrest could unravel a spate of cigarette raids on convenience stores across the city in recent months.

Officers gave chase after the car, driven by a 41-year-old man, failed to stop at 11.10pm on January 22.

The vehicle was found in Hillyfields and police sent out a dog unit and a helicopter to join in the search.

The man was eventually found hiding in the garden of a house in Redbridge Lane.

Police found items that might be used for burglaries inside the abandoned car. The man was arrested on suspicion of failing to stop for police, dangerous driving, burglary, and conspiracy to burgle.

The arrest came after three men carried out an attempted cigarette raid at the Londis store in Oak Tree Road at 10.30pm the same day.

The suspects smashed their way into the building using a crowbar and were carrying sacks.

They attempted to break through the shutters covering the cigarette display but were unable to gain entry.

Hampshire Constabulary said the three men searched the rest of the store but soon left in a large, dark 4x4.

The arrest comes days after the police launched Operation Drench to combat cigarette raids plaguing the city.

As reported by the Daily Echo earlier this month, police recorded 26 crimes related to cigarette thefts since November 21.

These include break-ins at a number of newsagents and shops in Shirley, Bitterne, Eastleigh and Southampton.

Thieves have stolen cars, vans and high-powered motorcycles to use in the cigarette thefts.

Anyone with information about the cigarette raids should call Shirley CID on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.