RAIDERS stole £3,000 of cigarettes from branches of Martins newsagents during a two-day crime spree.

Thieves hit four of the newsagents, leaving the stores with costly repair bills.

Police are appealing for information about the break-ins on Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, to contact them.

The first happened at Martins, in Felmores End, Pitsea, at about 12.24am on Saturday.

Thieves got into the shop by forcing open the metal shutters.

Once inside, they tried to open the safe, but gave up, took tobacco products from behind the counter and fled.

The second raid was at Martins, in the Laindon Centre, between 6.30pm on May 17, and 5am on May 18.

The raiders forced open the front door, stole £750 of cigarettes and caused £1,000 of damage.

Burglars then targeted Martins, in Whitmore Way, Basildon, between 2.40am and 2.50am on May 18.

They smashed open the front door and stole £2,000 of cigarettes.

Witnesses spotted two people in dark clothes run from the shop, jump into a waiting car and speed off.

The final incident was at Martins, in Clay Hill Road, Basildon, between 4.50am and 6am on May 18.

Thieves tried to break into the shop by forcing the shutters, but were unable to get inside.

Sergeant Angie Torrance, from Basildon police station, said: “Officers are investigating whether all four of these breakins are linked.

“I would urge anyone with information about the break-ins, or anyone who suspects they may have been offered stolen cigarettes for sale, to contact officers at Basildon police station by calling 101.”