A MASKED gang smashed their way into a Hampshire petrol station during an early morning raid.

The thieves got in by forcing the shutters and breaking the glass front to the store before helping themselves to cigarettes and cash from the till.

The break-in happened at the BP petrol station in Paynes Road, Shirley, where staff are still counting the cost of what they have lost.

The gang then fled the scene in a small, dark-coloured car.

Staff say the gang had their faces covered and had also spilt drinks all over the floor in the early morning raid between 4.15am and 4.45am on Saturday .

The manager of the shop, who did not wish to be named, told the Daily Echo how four people had been captured on CCTV as they pulled onto the garage forecourt moments before they broke in.

The raid lasted around 10 minutes.

Police forensic teams were examining the scene on Saturday morning and the petrol station was closed until around 7am.

Detectives from Shirley CID say enquiries are underway to identify the burglars but they want to hear from any witnesses or anyone being offered cigarettes to buy from unlicensed sources.

It’s the latest in a string of cigarette break-ins, with multiple convenience stores in Hampshire targeted since the start of the year.

In January police launched Operation Drench to combat cigarette raids plaguing Hampshire.

This was after they had recorded 26 crimes related to cigarette thefts since November 21 in which tens of thousands of pounds worth of tobacco had been taken.

This includes newsagents and shops in Shirley, Bitterne, Eastleigh and Southampton which have been targeted in night-time raids. More recently, convenience and Co-op stores had also fallen victim.

Just weeks ago a post office in Fair Oak was also burgled and cigarettes stolen.

Hooded thieves smashed their way into the Whalesmead Post Office and Newsagent and were caught on CCTV as they jumped over the counter before helping themselves to hundreds’ of pounds worth of stock.

The gang of five escaped on motorbikes after they were disturbed, but got away with £644 of cigarettes, £175 cash and £45 worth of scratch cards.

Anyone with information on the petrol station burglary is asked to call Shirley CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.