A HAMPSHIRE convenience store which has been targeted by burglars several times in recent years has been left badly damaged after a JCB was used to steal the cash machine.

Police were called to the Tesco Express store in Springvale Road, Kings Worthy, near Winchester, at around 4.30am yesterday after the digger had been driven through the side of the shop.

Officers say the cash machine was stolen and “extensive damage” was caused to the store, while large tyre tracks could be seen in grass nearby and a bollard had been ripped out of the ground.

Kings Worthy resident Amanda Fry added the “yellow JCB with a digger arm” was left at the scene after seeing police tow it away at around 8.30am.

However, neighbours say they were surprised not to have heard the commotion when it took place.

One resident from Springvale Road, who did not want to be named, said: “Last night was a very quiet night by normal standards,” while neighbour Philip Potten said: “I was awake at 3.45am and even the dog didn’t wake up.”

Mr Potten said he thought the JCB had been taken from a nearby building site. A police spokesman has since confirmed “we are making enquiries into the theft of a JCB telehandler from a site off Loveden Lane, Kings Worthy, as part of our investigation”.

Fellow Springvale Road resident Angela Helyar, who lives opposite the store, said it had been previously targeted on a number of occasions and that there was no CCTV outside.

Ms Helyar’s daughter Diana added: “I’m surprised Tesco hasn’t had CCTV cameras put up because they’re not catching anyone.

“They’re lucky that [the building] is still standing.”

As previously reported, police launched a hunt for a robber who threatened Tesco staff with a knife before fleeing with cash in March this year.

Speaking at the time, officers said a masked man entered the store shortly before 11pm and threatened two workers with a large blade.

A number of similar ram-raids have also been carried out in the Winchester district this year.

In July a tractor was used to rip out a cash point from the West Meon Hut petrol station on the A32/A272 crossroads.

The raid left the owner with thousands of pounds worth of damage, while a similar incident in Bishop’s Waltham in February saw rubble from the Lloyds bank strewn across the road.

The Echo asked Hampshire Constabulary if the incidents are in being linked, but a spokesman said: “At this early stage of the investigation, we are not linking this incident with any other similar offences.”

Anyone with information should call 101, quoting 44180415212, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.