POLICE have cordoned off an area around Highworth's Co-op supermarket while they investigate a wall smashed by thieves who stole a cash machine.

The criminals used a JCB to break the side of the supermarket with the ATM attached in the early hours of this morning.

They moved the machine into a van, left the JCB at the scene around 1.15am and drove off.

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Highworth Library, the post office, and the side entrance of the supermarket are shut until a structural assessment of that part of the building has been carried out, though the main entrance of the Co-op is open.

Shocked shoppers using Gilbert's Lane to pass through to the High Street were greeted by the sight of several police cars and a large hole in the side of the town's only supermarket. 

Rosie Grant-Wilson said: "We've got a lovely community in Highworth that I'm proud to be part of, so it's a massive surprise that this has happened and that someone would do something like this.

"Everybody's talking about it, all of Highworth is shocked by it.

"I use the cashpoint all the time, I was there a few hours before it happened."

Paul Newton Smith said: "It's a real shame, this cash machine was, essentially, a replacement for the bank and it's the one nearest the High Street so it was convenient for a lot of people.

"I'm surprised no-one seems to have heard anything, you'd think someone would notice a JCB driving around.

"This is going to be a massive inconvenience so they'll need to get it fixed pretty quickly."

Shoppers will have to travel to the Spar garage by the bowls club to use a cash machine until the Co-op's one is fixed or replaced.

The stolen cash machine was found empty and abandoned at a hanger at Idstone.

A van and Audi were found burnt out at Foxhill, near Liddington.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident.

Det Insp Paul Hacker said: "We would like to hear from anyone who may have seen a JCB being driven to the supermarket in Highworth, possibly being closely followed by a car which could have been an Audi.

"Did you hear or see anything in the Highworth area in the early hours of this morning or anyone acting suspiciously before the incident - perhaps in the days leading up to the break-in?

"We'd also like to hear from anyone who may have seen the fire caused by the burning of the vehicles - perhaps you were passing and saw or heard people acting suspiciously and out of context for this quiet, rural area or maybe saw a vehicle driving erratically."

Anyone who can help with the police's enquiries should contact Swindon CID on 101, quoting crime reference number 54180115068. Alternatively, call anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.