Police have confirmed ramraiders stole a cash machine in an attack on a post office.
Peat Carr Post Office, based in Airedale Gardens, Hetton, was hit this morning, with considerable damage caused to the brickwork at the front of the property.
Northumbria Police say they received a report of a vehicle smashing into the premises at 2.34am this morning.
A spokesman said: “The offenders then got inside the premises and stole a cash ATM from inside before making off.
“Police believe they were driving a red vehicle, possibly an estate.
“Enquiries are ongoing into the incident and anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference number 74 22/12/15.
Neighbours have spoken of their shock.
One said: "It's disgusting. I heard an alarm at about 1.30am, and then a helicopter at 3am. If it was a police helicopter, it seemed to be quite a while between the first alarm and the helicopter coming here.
"It's not something you expect to happen here, as it's usually very quiet.
"I've got young children, and it is frightening that an incident like this could take place here."
Another who lives in the area said: "It's a quiet area, and you don't get things like this happening here. I've never known anything like it before.
"We go in there every day to get our pensions and buy a copy of the Echo."
Words of support also came in for the owners of the shop, with another resident of the area adding: "The people who run the shop are lovely, and don't deserve anything like this to happen to them.
"To do it at this time of year is heartless as well."