A GANG of women thieves has been targeting shops...distracting the staff before stealing goods.

The Eastern European trio have struck at stores in Rochford but it is feared they could soon move on to nearby towns.

Businesses are hoping to alert others about the crooks - who are particularly distinctive one of them has a shock of red hair and gleaming gold incisor teeth.

Their latest strike was at Carter Glass, in Ashingdon Road, where two of them began chatting to a salesman.

The third then crept into a conservatory that was on display, stealing a mobile phone from the desk inside.

Owner Guy Carter, 43, wants to warn others about the thieves to prevent others from falling victim to them.

He said: “I went whizzing down to Rochford station in the car to see if they’d gone that way, and then back down Ashingdon Hill, but I couldn’t find them anywhere.

“I just want to warn other people.”

During his search he spoke to at least four other businesses who had noticed the women in the past two months.

Mr Carter said he was disappointed because he feels police may have been able to catch them if they had sent officers out immediately after it happened, at about 2pm on Tuesday January 8.

But they were yet to take a statement yesterday afternoon.

Shelly Bruce, owner of nearby Sheer Indulgence beauticians, said the women had come into their store right before they targeted Carter Glass.

They tried to book an immediate nail appointment, but appeared to be scanning the shelves for things to steal.

She said: “We are concerned if it’s going to be something that keeps happening. It’s a worry that you’ve got people that almost feel like they are sussing out what you’ve got. When you go home and lock the door at night you wonder whether it’s safe.”

Panaaj Patel, owner of nearby Kailash newagents, said: “We just throw them out. I don’t know how long it’s been going on for, they pop in whenever they feel like it. “

They take biscuits or sweets, it’s the same people. They distract you.”

The same motives appear to keep cropping up at different locations.

In February 2012 the Echo reported how an Eastern European gang had been distracting staff at shops in Hockley before stealing their phones.

The same thing happened in Canvey and Hadleigh in December 2011.

Insp Jeff Appleby, of Rayleigh police, said: “We are keen to get any information we can in terms of anyone responsible for any thefts.”

Anyone with information should call PC John Skingsley of Rayleigh police on 101.