MASKED thugs stole fuel, chainsaws and a set of ceramic Buddha statues from a family-run tree surgeon business.

Carol Steward, director at Tree Fella Ltd in Wakering Road, Shoebury, was horrified to discover that the chainsaws - specialist equipment totalling around £3,700 - had been taken during the early hours of the morning.

Crooks also targeted six of the company’s lorries, breaking caps off to steal the fuel from the Stewards Yard in Wakering Road - the midst of the UK’s fuel crisis.

Carol, whose husband founded Tree Fella in 1984, says the blow has had a knock-on impact to both their business and customers.

She said: “They knew exactly what they were doing, cutting through the fence of the gates next to the yard.

“They stole the fuel out of the lorries, which was diesel, and targeted around five or six of them. Not only that, but some of the fuel caps are £150.

“You can see they’ve broke into one of the barns by cutting the metal, and the chainsaws aren’t the normal ones you can just get from B&Q.

“You have to get them from specialist places and have official training to use them.

“We also had some of our ceramic buddhas stolen, but we don’t know how many.

“Its just so frustrating after the year we’ve had, it’s tough enough running the business as it is at the moment.”

Determined to find those responsible, Carol and the team were able to review some of their CCTV footage.

Watching back in horror, Carol explained: “When they were at the front yard, one was wearing a white mask and the other had his face covered with a t-shirt.

“I was so shocked when I found out, and I’m so gutted more than anything. It meant we weren’t able to work and then there’s the expense of replacing everything.”

An Essex Police probe has now been launched into the raid.

A spokesman, said: “We are investigating an allegation of burglary at a business premises at Stewards Yard, Wakering Road, Shoebury.

“It was reported to us that it happened between 1.30am on October 3 and 2am the following day.

“Our enquiries continue.”