POLICE are hunting a gang who escaped on a motorbike after raiding a North Baddesley shop and making off with sack-loads of cigarettes.

Police chased the trio, who were all mounted on a single machine, into Southampton, where they escaped capture.

Officers were alerted to the raid by a member of the public at about 3am on Wednesday and when they arrived at the Coop store in Botley Road, the gang were leaving the scene on a motorcycle.

A roadblock was set up on Rownhams Lane, but the motorbike drove around it.

Police pursued the motorbike through Rownhams and Lordshill, where officers lost track of it in Fair Isle Road.

A police spokesman said: “An alarm went off at the shop and a member of the public reported it to the police. When officers arrived, the offenders had got away, but they spotted them and set up a roadblock in Rownhams Lane, but the motorbike went round it.

“They were carrying garden waste bags believed to be containing cigarettes. Officers followed them in to Southampton, but they managed to escape. There were three men on the motorbike.”

Descriptions have been issued of two of the suspects. One wore a dark tracksuit top with navy bottoms and trainers and another was dressed in dark clothing and was wearing a grey baseball cap. No details have been released about the third suspect.

Raiders smashed a glass door at the shop to gain entry. The police spokesman said break-in may be linked to others across Hampshire, including one at Martin’s Newsagents in Romsey Cornmarket last June, which was foiled by officers.

In that incident two people escaped through the town on a motorbike, leaving behind their haul of cigarettes, bagged up in green garden waste bags, inside the shop.

A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “In the early hours of this morning (January 8), our store in Botley Road, North Baddesley, was broken into and a large quantity of cigarettes was stolen. The store was closed for investigations until 1pm this afternoo, and we would like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience this caused.

“CCTV has been given to the police and, as with any incident such as this, we would appeal for anyone with information to come forward.”

Police believe the gang may have used a Red Suzuki 1,100cc motorcycle, stolen from Mansel Road East, in Southampton, at around 1pm on Tuesday.