A CARPENTER has been left unable to work after thieves stolemore than £4,000 worth of tools from his van.

Self-employed Paul Mitchell, 46, is fearing for the future of his business after all of his work equipment was stolen from the vehicle while it was parked outside his house, in Chesterfield Avenue, Benfleet.

As he went to unlock the vehicle at about 5.30am yesterday, he noticed the doors at the back had been smashed and the tools were gone.

Mr Mitchell said: “There is no way I can work for a while.

“They smashed the lock off to get in and took everything.

“As I went to unlock the van on my way to work, I noticed it was already open and I just knew something really bad had happened.

“I was in the middle of fitting a kitchen and I had to ring the family and tell them I couldn’t come.

“They weren’t happy, but were understanding because of the situation.”

Mr Mitchell has blamed the crime on the lack of streetlights, saying the area is a “thieves’ paradise”.

Essex County Council decided to turn off lights across south Essex between midnight and 5am in a bid to save an estimated £345,000 a year.

Mr Mitchell said the dark streets were making thieves bolder.

He added: “It is pitch-black down our road.

“I went to bed at 11pm and I didn’t hear anything suspicious before that, so I’m sure the thieves must have come along after midnight.

“The police have been and taken fingerprints, but I don’t hold out much hope they will be able to find out who is responsible.

“There is no way anyone will have seen anything because of the streetlights being turned off.”

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said: “Police are investigating the theft from a motor vehicle, which was parked on Chesterfield Road, in Benfleet.

“Several items of tools were stolen.

“The offence took place between 10pm on Tuesday and 5.30am on Wednesday."”

Anyone with information is urged to contact officers on 101, or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.