Published: 12:00, 21 January 2016
Hundreds of photographs of young children have been snatched by thieves during a break-in at a nursery.
The images were on USB sticks swiped by two men who raided Avenue Nursery in Herne Bay.
They show as many as 50 children, aged between 15 months and five, enjoying special moments at the Kings Road building.
Manager Nikki Parker says staff and parents have been left heartbroken by last Thursday's burglary, describing the pictures as “irreplaceable”.
She said: “It’s a real shame that someone could do this. They knew what this building was used for and what they were doing.
“These pictures were irreplaceable. They were mainly taken in December so show the children at our Christmas show, the Christmas party and having their pictures taken with Santa.
“They are memories for parents, who like us are very angry.”
The two men were spotted circling the site shortly after 6pm before breaking in at about 7pm.
CCTV shows the larger man - who was wearing a hoodie and has a distinctive walk – keeping watch as the other climbs through a window that had been forced open.
Within five minutes, he breaks into a locked filing cabinet and steals the USB sticks, an iPad and £120 cash before the pair flee.
"Parents are angry and upset but they have been amazing and very supportive" - Nikki Parker, nursery manager
Each stick is thought to have contained pictures of six or seven children, with as many as 20 photos of each. They are collated to put in progress books sent home to parents, showing what their children have been doing at nursery.
Ms Parker reported the theft to education watchdog Ofsted, recognising there may have been safeguarding issues.
She said: “There’s not much more we could have done. They were in a locked filing cabinet in a securely locked building.
“The men definitely knew what they were doing. They went right to the place where cash is kept.
“They must have had knowledge of the building or access to it before.
“He was in and out in five minutes.
“We’re assuming he thought there was more money in the tub that had the USB sticks in.
“Parents are angry and upset but they have been amazing and very supportive.
“I hope that whoever has done this will come forward with the USBs as they mean so much to us, the children and the parents.
“Even if they just leave them somewhere or give them to someone to give back to us.
“We can replace the filing cabinet and the iPad, but we can’t replace those pictures.”
Anyone with information can call police on 01843 222289 or Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, quoting reference number ZY/1544/16.