A delivery driver was forced to his knees while thieves ransacked his van containing tens of thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes.
A large scale search is now underway, after the incident at South Road, Hailsham, involving four police forces.
Three men pulled into the BP petrol station forecourt at around 7am, when a delivery was being made to the garage.
The men got out of their white van and challenged the delivery driver.
A Sussex Police spokesman said, “At this stage they say to the delivery driver, “Give us your cigarettes”. They tell him to kneel down and look away from them. They go into his van and take big bags of cigarettes out, and threw them in the back of their van, before driving off.
“This was tens of thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes.”
The white transit van had the registration VE03 VGG, however police think the suspects may have swapped the plates after their getaway.
“They stopped at Cackleberry Close, two of the men got out of the van and jumped into a silver car, and both vehicles pulled away.
“They have headed off towards the A22. We think they may have changed the number plates on that van since that point.
“But we need to know if anyone has seen a van where men have got out and changed the number plates.
“We are now liaising with Kent, Surrey and the Met Police.”
The men were described as white, possibly Eastern European, they were wearing high-viz jackets, were wearing cream trousers and white socks.
Sussex Police said the three suspects may be linked to a similar attempted theft in Faversham last week.
The delivery driver was not injured.
The police spokesman added, “There is no suggestion the men are violent, but if you see them do not challenge them, call 999.”
If you have any information call Sussex Police on 101 with the reference 148/14- 05
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage at www.eastbourneherald.co.uk
2 Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ Eastbourne-Herald-and-Gazette
3 Follow us on Twitter @Eastbournenews
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
The Eastbourne Herald - always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.