The owner of a shop burgled last Friday says he is in a state of shock after his business was left in ruins.

R P Sweet News in Market Square was targeted by thieves between 5.30pm on Friday night and 6am Saturday morning.

Hundreds of boxes of cigarettes worth £6,000 were taken after a 'search of the shop' according to police.

Mohammed Perwaiz, owner of the shop said: “I turned up on Saturday morning and I saw the lights on so I knew something was wrong. Everything was broken, shelves were ruined, CCTV recording taken and the back door lock broken.

“They took everything they could get their hand to. I’ve been shocked. For the past three days I’ve just felt awful.”

Police believe the raid is part of a county wide problem. Inspector Andy Fucher, said: “The incident is likely to be part of a series of burglaries across the county, where organised groups raid targeted areas.

“Groups tend to visit the areas of Colchester, Brentwood and Loughton, trying to shoplift as much as they can in a single day.”

Another shopkeeper in the town, of Great Cash Deals in Highbridge Street was assaulted just nine days ago, after an altercation surrounding the sale of cigarettes. Although police say these incidents are not related, Mr Perwaiz feels like the town’s small businesses are under threat.

“I spoke about the assault on the shopkeeper last week. We are both hard working men, trying to earn a living but crime seems to be everywhere now. People have no jobs and small businesses like ours are an easy target.”