A SUPERMARKET was evacuated after a suspected thief threatened to jump from a balcony after being apprehended.

Eyewitnesses reported vodka and steak being stockpiled in a pram before a group of people were stopped by security guards at the Asda store in Basildon's Eastgate Shopping Centre.

It is alleged suspects began climbing over shelves throwing items on the floor and threatening to hurl glass vases at customers on Tuesday evening.

An off-duty police officer was in the store at the time and assisted security after suspicions were raised about their behaviour, Max Hanson-Brooks, a 21-year-old from Benfleet, said: "I was exchanging some sweet potatoes and could see all the aisles blocked and barricaded in the middle.

“I asked a staff member what was going on.

"He told me a suspected shoplifter was threatening to jump off the first floor.

“As I was walking out of the shop, I could see someone standing on top of the shelving unit with his hands in glass vases threatening to throw them.

“Apparently he had already been throwing other things.

"I spoke to a lady who had been shopping when it started and she said three people - two men and a woman - started filling a pram with vodka and steak.

“I’d never heard anything like it. It was crazy.”

Police were called to the store and staff closed it temporarily to protect members of the public while the scene was contained.

Another witness, who has asked not to be named, said: “We went down to do some shopping at about 7.30 and couldn’t get in because security were blocking the door.

“We could see a number of police vehicles outside and officers inside speaking to a man on top of some shelves in aisle 40.

“It appeared quite calm at this point."

Police were called to the store during the incident to help support their colleague and the security guards.

Following an investigation two men were later arrested.

A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed officers were called to Asda in Eastgate Shopping Centre, Basildon, at about 6.30pm on Tuesday, July 31.

Calls were initially received to reports of shoplifting.

It was later alleged a man had been causing damage to some of the stock.

The spokesman said: "The store was closed for the safety of staff and shoppers."

Nobody is believed to have been hurt.

A man has subsequently been charged with criminal damage and using threatening, abusive or insulting words and behaviour. Ashley Sullivan, 24, of Kenneth Road, Pitsea, was remanded into custody. Sullivan is due to appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court today. A 27-year-old man from Pitsea was arrested on suspicion of theft and later released without charge.