A GANG of masked thieves attempted to steal an ATM before fleeing after being caught in the act by a member of the public. 

The gang attempted to break into the cash machine at McColl’s, in High Street, Southminster, at around 1.20am on Friday.

Police received reports that up to five men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas damaged the back door of the shop.

They were then disturbed by a member of the public and drove off from the scene in two vehicles.

One of the vehicles has since been recovered and seized by police.

The Maldon Local Policing Team tweeted: “We attended an attempted commercial burglary in Southminster.

“The suspects made off in two vehicles after being disturbed - one of which was recovered by police a short time later confirmed as stolen and on false number plates.”

The community reported seeing a large amount of police outside the store throughout Friday morning.

A shopworker from Farleigh Hospice, near to the store, said: “I got here at about 8.40am and throughout the morning I noticed police outside.

“There have been forensic investigation teams coming in and out of the shop, but it has been open as normal.

“There was even an officer who attended on a horse later in the morning.

“I went in to see them earlier, it seems the staff were aware from very early on during the night about what happened.”

McColl’s has said it is working to ensure its staff feel safe following the incident.

A spokesman for the company said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers is of utmost importance. 

“We are working closely with the relevant authorities in response to this incident.”

Essex Police has asked people to come forward with CCTV surrounding the area from the time the incident took place.

A spokesman for Essex Police added: “We would urge anyone with information, CCTV or dash cam footage to call Essex Police on 101 quoting incident 51 of Friday, January 11.”

You can also report any information about the incident online at www.essex.police.uk/do-it-online or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.