THOUSANDS of pounds of damage was caused in raids on two charity shops a week after five were hit in the same night.

The British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK shops in Southend were hit by crooks overnight between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

It followed break-ins at five charity shops in Leigh overnight between February 23 and 24.

Thieves smashed through glass to get into the British Heart Foundation shop on the High Street, causing about £1,500 worth of damage and stealing £500 worth of stock.

Now staff are urgently appealing to residents to scour their homes and bring in any unwanted items so they can refill the store.

Manager Sarah Pooley, 34, said: “Staff and volunteers here are devastated and our older volunteers are particularly upset.

“The thieves have smashed the window, trashed the office and taken the money from the donation box, though thankfully there wasn’t a lot in it.

“But it’s the damage that’s theworst thing as safety glass is very expensive to replace. And that’s money that should be going towards the fight against heart disease.”

The thugs also smashed one pane of glass in the door of the Cancer Research UK shop in Southchurch Road but, as the shop had installed doublepaned glass following an earlier break-in, did not manage to get inside.

A large brick was found by staff outside the door at about 8.20am.

Bev Dean, manager of Cancer Research UK, said: “Last time the back room was completely trashed – every nook and cranny was overturned. Since then we had double safety glass installed and we never leave money on the premises.

“It’s awful when your volunteers work so hard to bring the money in and it ends up being spent on repairing the store instead of fighting against cancer."