RESIDENTS have described watching brazen thieves use a stolen digger to tear down an entire wall of a supermarket in the most audacious cash machine heist in the county yet.

The gang of hooded men demolished the wall housing the ATM at the Co-op in Kingston Bagpuize, near Abingdon, in the early hours of yesterday morning.

It is the latest in a string of at least 14 raids across Oxfordshire since December 2017 with thieves growing ever more fearless in their methods.

Watch: Police collect evidence from the rubble

The Kingston Bagpuize gang loaded the Co-op ATM, containing an unknown quantity of cash, onto the back of a pick-up truck and made off at about 2.10am.

One villager who asked not to be named said: "I heard a huge crash.

Oxford Mail:

"I went up to my upstairs window and saw the digger sitting there and four men running around in dark hoodies."

Another who was awoken by the destruction said: "It sounded like a car crash and I didn't think anything of it, I just thought it was someone being stupid and went back to sleep."

Watch again: ATM blown out of the wall at village post office

The store in Witney Road, which only opened in November, was left with a gaping hole in the side of the building and debris strewn across the car park, with some describing the scene being similar to a bomb site.

Yesterday morning villagers gawped at the scene behind the police tape, the abandoned digger's wiper blades still going and the Co-op alarm resounding into the afternoon.

Oxford Mail:

The shop was closed for business throughout the day with bosses unsure when it would re-open.

Police have so far said they are 'keeping an open mind' as to whether this raid is linked to others, and last night made no arrests in connection with the latest incident.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Aidan Donohoe, based at Abingdon police station, said: “Our investigation is in the very early stages, but I would appeal to anybody that saw or heard anything at around 2.10am to contact police.

Read again: Attempted murder investigation hunts for ten people in Oxford

“The offenders have caused significant damage to the front of the store, with the digger, which was stolen, and have removed the cash machine, stealing a quantity of cash.

“At this stage, it is too early to say whether this incident is linked to any similar such offences across the region, but we are keeping an open mind.

“Forensic officers have examined the scene and we are making further enquiries in this investigation.

Oxford Mail:

The view from the bedroom window of one resident who said she saw the midnight raid unfold.

“I would urge anybody who has any information, to please get in touch.”

Police said the gang of up to five men were all dressed in black clothing and were seen loading the ATM onto the back of a black Mitsubishi pick-up truck.

They drove off, with a chain dragging behind the rear of the vehicle, towards the A420.

Read again: Benefit cheat hairdresser caught after tip-off

In November, 250 officers swooped on 10 locations across Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties in a series of raids in connection with the ATM attacks.

Seven were arrested but were were released under investigation and remained so when the force last released an update on their cases in January.

However, since then there have been five such attacks including three in one night when exploding gas cannisters were used to get at ATMs in Bloxham, Eynsham and Aylesbury.

Oxford Mail:

The latest incident has led to questions as to what can be done to halt the cash machine crime spree.

Conservative county councillor Liam Walker said in a post on Twitter yesterday: “Another attack on a shop in Oxfordshire.

“The shops and police have got to work closer together to stamp this out.

Read again: Teenager led police on high-speed chase down Cowley Road

“Question needs to be asked, do we even need these cash points in the shops?”

A spokesperson for Co-op said: “There was incident at our Kingston Bagpuize in the early hours of Friday where there was an attack on the community’s ATM.

Oxford Mail:

“Police are investigating, and we appeal for anyone who may have seen or heard anything to come forward.

“It is too early confirm when the store will re-open as we wait to fully assess the damage.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting URN 86 (1/3).

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or make a report online.

ATM raids in Oxfordshire so far

1. Aldi, Chipping Norton in December 2017

Thieves used a stolen 4x4 to ram into an Aldi supermarket in Chipping Norton in a botched bid to steal a cash machine.The group targeted the Banbury Road store shortly before 1am on December 13.

2. Charlbury, Co-op in January 2018

Ram-raiders hit a Co-op Food store in Charlbury and made attempts to remove the cashpoint. Staff were called to the store, in Enstone Road, after an alarm was activated.

3. Co-op, Grove in January 2018

A gang of thieves hauled a cash machine through the front doors of a Co-op in Grove using a Jeep in a daring late night raid. Burglars gained entry to the Savile Way store by prising open the front metal shutter at around 11.40pm on January 9.

4. Aldi, Headington in February 2018

Ram-raiders struck again at Aldi in Headington in another failed bid to steal an in-store cash machine. The group used a stolen Land Rover Discovery to reverse into store, in Horspath Driftway, just before midnight on February 3.

5. Morrisons, Carterton in March 2018

A gang of thieves used a stolen Land Rover to target a cash machine at Morrisons in Carterton. The supermarket was closed for much of the day after police said four or five people tried to take the cash point at the shop on Black Bourton Road at about 1.30am on March 8.

6. Waitrose, Oxford in March 2018

Thieves hit the Waitrose in Oxford’s Botley Road in an early morning ram-raid style smash-and-grab. A Land Rover Defender was abandoned outside the main entrance with a cable attached to the rear on March 12.

7. Spar, Bodicote in March 2018

A Spar in Bodicote became the seventh store to be hit by ram-raiders. Four men used a stolen Land Rover Discovery in an attempt to remove the cash machine from the Molyneux Drive shop on March 14. But the thieves left the scene empty handed, abandoning the stolen vehicle in the process.

8. Aldi, Didcot in March 2018

Would-be thieves who ram-raided Didcot’s Aldi supermarket using axes and crowbars to try to steal the cash machine. A blue or grey 4x4 was used to smash through the supermarket in Broadway between 2.30am and 3am on March 23.

9. Grove, Tesco in April 2018

Would-be thieves smashed their way into the Tesco Express in Millbrook Square between 1.55am and 2.05am. Police said the gang had forced the office door open where the ATM machine is located and damaged the CCTV, but nothing was taken. 

10. Co-op, Woodcote in September 2018

Thieves botched two attempts to steal the cash machine at the Co-o in Woodcote between 2.30am and 2.45am.They eventually made off with a bottle of Lambrini instead.

11. Co-op, Charlbury in November 2018

Thieves struck at the West Oxfordshire supermarket for the second time in a failed bid to steal cash from an ATM. The Co-op Food store in Enstone Road, Charlbury, was raided by thieves targeting its cash machine at about 2.35am.

12. Abingdon, Co-op in December 2018

The Northcourt Road Co-op and post office was targeted at 3.30am by thieves who smashed their way into the store before making off with the money from its ATM.

13. Post Office, Esso Co-op Eynsham in February 2019

Residents described hearing a 'huge boom' in the early hours of the morning as yet another Oxfordshire ATM was stolen by thieves. Police say the gas explosion attack was one of two in the region, with a petrol station near Aylesbury also being targeted on the same night. A third ATM in Bloxham was later found to have been targeted that night.

14. Kingston Bagpuize Co-op in March 2019

The latest raid saw a gang use a forklift truck to demolish the ATM wall in one of the most brazen raids so far. Residents described the aftermath as ‘looking like a bomb had gone off’.