A “BIG bang that sounded like a bomb” was heard by witnesses when an ATM was blown up at a convenience store in Hale.

Surrey Police were called to the Costcutter store in Willow Way, Hale, at 2.25am on Sunday (August 25) following a burglary.

The police and fire service were called by store manager Rajadurai and his wife Jeya Sasitharan, who live above the shop.

Mr Sasitharan told the Herald once he’d heard the “big bang”, he opened the kitchen window and saw the group of men.

He said: “There was a vehicle parked in front of the shop. One of the men was shouting ‘hurry up’ to the others in the shop.”

A spokesman for Surrey Police said: “It appears a group of men had filled the cash machine with a flammable gas and then set it alight, exploding both the inside and outside of the ATM and causing substantial damage.

“The men left quickly afterwards with a quantity of cash.”

There was no damage to the first floor and the group didn’t take any stock, according to Mr Sasitharan.

But the windows and door were broken and the cash machine was damaged. The store reopened around midday on Sunday and damage to the front of the shop, as photographed above, has since been boarded up.

The police spokesman confirmed they were “considering” links with other similar incidents in the south east, and are now appealing for witnesses.

The spokesman added: “Officers are keen to speak to anyone who saw a group of six men at the location in the moments before the incident, or may have seen a dark-coloured saloon car, with six men in it, driving at speed in the local area.

“The car is believed is to have travelled to the scene from Petersfield, and left Willow Way turning right on to Upper Hale Road, towards Sandy Hill.

“It may have travelled towards Fleet and Aldershot or Odiham.

“In particular officers would like to speak to anyone who has dash cam or helmet cam footage of the car.”

Mr Sasitharan told the Herald the incident was “scary” and that he is still scared days after it happened, while Mrs Sasitharan said it was “terrible”.

He added: “My wife is worried because we didn’t expect it – it’s a very nice place.”

And of the community, Mr Sasitharan said: “So many people came and asked if we were okay or whether we needed anything to reopen the shop.”

* Anybody with any information that could help the investigation is asked to contact Surrey Police on 101, quoting reference PR/45190089688.