A HOSPICE charity shop was forced to close after callous thieves broke in. It is the second of its branches to be hit in less than a year.

Thieves took about £100 in cash from a collection tin and till float at Havens Hospices’s shop, on West Street, Rochford, on between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The intruders broke in the back of the building causing the shop to be closed until 2pm yesterday while police investigated the incident.

The closure caused the charity to lose an estimated £100 in donations and sales. Proceeds from the shop are used to care for seriously ill children and adults at the Fair Havens Little Havens hospices in Westcliff and Thundersley .

Manager, Vanessa Seymour, said staff and volunteers were deeply upset and disheartened about the raid, which had cast a shadow over an otherwise rewarding line of work.

She said, “The shop is an integral part of the community and the money raised each day goes towards caring for local families going through a heart-breaking and distressing time of their lives.

“I’m just deeply saddened and dismayed that someone could steal from a charity.

“It’s a very unsettling feeling knowing that someone has broken in.

“Day to day, it is a very rewarding job, especially when you hear directly from people who the hospices have helped, and that’s why something like this is so disappointing to us all, but I’m very grateful to my team of volunteers and the local people for their words of support.”

The charity had similar break-in at its shop in Alexandra Road, Southend, last year.

Its shop in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff was also repeatedly targeted by shoplifters believed to be working for an organised gang last year, during a string of thefts from charity shops on the road.

A police spokesman said: “Police are investigating a burglary at a charity shop in West Street, Rochford, which was reported just after 10.25am on Wednesday, February 19.

“Cash is believed to have been taken from the till and a collection tin was emptied.

“Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.”