Published: 11:45, 09 January 2019
| Updated: 14:28, 09 January 2019
Thieves rammed through a village convenience store to steal a cash machine, before dragging it along the road, taking money and setting fire to their car in a dramatic early morning raid.
Officers were called to the Co-op in Faversham Road, Lenham, near Maidstone, just after 2am after it was reported a Mitsubishi Shogun had been used to steal an ATM from inside the premises.
It is understood the vehicle rammed the front of the shop and then pulled out the cash machine using strapping of some kind.
It was then dragged along Faversham Road and over the A20 towards Doddington where it was left after a quantity of cash had been removed.
The Shogun was later found on fire in Flint Lane and detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate have now launched an investigation into the raid.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called just after 3am where it found the vehicle vacated and "well alight".
The blaze was extinguished by 3.30am using a hose reel jet. A spokesperson said it looked as if it had been started deliberately.
District Commander, Chief Inspector Ray Quiller said: "This crime has caused considerable disruption to this local business and the village community.
"While investigators are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry, we are appealing for witnesses who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the area, saw the vehicle travelling into the village or leaving pulling the cash machine behind it."
The store has remained closed throughout the morning while detectives investigate.
A spokesperson for Southern Co-op said: “We are working closely with Kent Police and we would urge anyone with information relating to this incident to come forward and speak to the police.
"This crime has caused considerable disruption to this local business and the village community..." Chief Inspector Ray Quiller
“We are doing our best to reopen the store as soon as it is safe to do so and would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
"We would like to thank the wider community for their support and understanding.”
One eyewitness who works nearby but did not wish to be named said: "When I came in this morning, I saw a lot of police and that there was a cordon in place.
"It seems like there was a raid overnight, but nobody seems to know much more at the moment."
Another said they had seen forensics officers working at the scene and that the road had been closed since before 6am.
The raid comes just seven weeks after a gang used a boom lift to wrench out an ATM from the Sainsbury's in Headcorn.
However, they are believed to have in fact made off empty handed, as those living and working nearby said the cash machine had been empty and not dispensing money prior to the burglary.
Anyone who has information or who has CCTV or dash cam footage that a may assist the investigation is asked to call Kent Police on 01622 604100 quoting reference 9-0074.
Alternatively, contact the independent charity ‘Crimestoppers in Kent’ anonymously on 0800 555111.