A FAMILY say their lives have been “changed forever” after a gang of thieves ransacked their home in Benfleet.

Their home was turned upside down when suspects forced entry into the property in Church Road.

The thieves stole thousands of pounds worth of jewels, electrical items, clothing, sunglasses, golf clubs and cash.

The most expensive item to be stolen was the homeowner’s son’s blue Audi S3, which is worth around £38,000.

The woman who owns the property, who asked not to be named, said: “It was 20 weeks ago today when our lives changed forever after someone broke into our family home.

“They terrorised our two little dogs and ransacked our bedrooms looking for car keys.

“Not having much luck finding them, they smashed into the safe that was in our bedroom cupboard, stole every item of jewellery I had collected over the 50 years of my life, including the irreplaceable items of jewellery from my mum, grandmother and aunts and my great-grandad’s war medals that I had placed in there after losing my dad four weeks earlier.”

After attacking their dogs and stealing a host of precious items to the family, the thieves also took the keys to the son’s Audi.

Following the incident, the family have had to pay a settlement of £30,000 for the six-month-old vehicle.

The woman added: “It’s been a living nightmare. When you think you’re insured, you find out that you’re not and have to pay almost £30,000 to settle the payment on the car.

“Who has receipts and photographs of jewellery they own?

“How can you put a value on the sentimental items of jewellery that belonged to your mum and that you can never replace?”

The woman added that she still struggles to sleep following the incident, as she is scared that it may happen again.

Following the burglary on Monday, May 21, Essex Police appealed for information about the incident.

Officers released CCTV images of four men they wish to speak to in connection with the burglary.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact PC Natalie Backhouse at Basildon CID on 101, quoting reference 42/70759/18 or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.