Heartless crooks stole hundreds of pounds of charity donations after breaking into a high street shop.

Thieves broke into The Emporium in Maldon in the middle of the night last Friday, causing damage to a window and doors at the front of the store.

They searched the shop before taking a small amount of cash from the shop till, and cash out of charity boxes in support of a host of causes.

Among those was a box containing £180 towards this Saturday’s annual bonfire night in Promenade Park organised by Maldon Rotary Club.

Mary Powell, wife of the owner, Graham Powell, dialled 999 at around 1am after an alarm alerted the couple to the theft.

She said: “It is shocking they have stolen the charity money.

“It is an occupational hazard as a shop that we are a target for thieves, but to take money donated to charity is low.”

The business has been trading in High Street for more than 30 years, originally opening in what is now Prezzo in 1985, before moving to its current location around ten years later.

Mrs Powell said The Emporium has been broken into only a handful of times over the past 30 years, but this incident is more painful for the family.

She said: “To say we expect it is ridiculous, but even so it is always in the back of our minds.

"We just make sure there isn’t going to be anything too valuable apart from the stock in the shop.

“The Rotary Club organises the charity fireworks and they have five or six businesses including us where people can come to buy tickets.

“They supply us with a donations box and then we hand that money to the Rotary Club.

“The theft has upset us quite a lot, a lot of money was raised and now it has been nicked.”

Despite the break-in and the loss of cash, Mr and Mrs Powell have decided they will pay back the money lost in the incident.

The money will be given to the Rotary Club, which organises the annual fireworks, and distributes profits to charities.