THIEVES smashed their way into a Southampton shop in what has been described as a “heinous act”.

Police say a group of hooded robbers rammed a trolley holding a freezer into the doors of Arrow News, on Windrush Road, Millbrook.

According to one of the shop owners Sonal Thakkar, neighbours called the police after seeing thieves drive a vehicle into the trolley, which then hit the store front and broke its shutters to gain entry.

She said that thousands of cigarette packets were stolen from the family-owned store, along with around £600 in cash from the till.

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Sonal said: “We came in this morning and saw there was rubbish every where, all over the floors. They had stolen £10,000 cigarette packets and between £500 and £600.

“They broke our door, and banged the trolley into the door which had a freezer inside. Our shutters are very strong but half of the shutter came down.

“Luckily we fitted a smoke alarm last week so if that if anyone breaks in, smoke goes into their eyes. This is the first time it has happened, and we are a bit worried because of the damage.”

MP Royston Smith “This is a heinous criminal act at anytime but particularly while the police are so busy contributing to the pandemic efforts.”

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While Councillor and Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Dave Shields, said: "This is a shocking thing to have happened and my thoughts extend to the shop staff and neighbouring residents who must be understandably distraught with this desperate act.

"I very much hope that our local neighbourhood police get the necessary level of support - both from the community and those responsible for funding our stretched services – to ensure that the thieves are swiftly brought to book.”

Nearby residents said they were woken up by “a lot of banging”, with some saying the shop owners “do not deserve it”.

One person said: “I was woken up at half three and heard a lot of banging.

“I looked out the window and saw a car outside the front door. People were obviously just trying to smash it in, there were four of them.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said: “We were called at 3.37am today (26 May) to reports of a break-in at the Arrow News store on Windrush Road, Southampton.

“A vehicle was used to force entry, causing damage to the storefront, and a quantity of cigarettes were stolen.

“Anyone with information is asked to phone 101, quoting reference 44200186495.”