Eight police cars were disabled by a 'professional' group of criminals, preventing officers from attending the theft of a cash machine.

The vehicles were damaged minutes before officers responded to a report of a cash machine theft in the Cotswolds this morning.

At about 3.30am Gloucestershire police was informed thieves had smashed the cash machine at Eurogarage Service Station, in Stow Road, Moreton in Marsh.

They had used a stolen cherry picker, which has now been recovered, and made off with part of the machine and four cash cassettes.

When officers from Stow-on-the-Wold tried to respond they found that one tyre on each of eight police cars parked at the rear of the station had been slashed, disabling them all.

CCTV footage has revealed three people, one in grey and two in dark clothing, running from the scene about ten minutes before the theft had been reported.

Officers were on patrol in the area but the offenders had left the scene by the time they arrived.

No-one was injured during the incident though there is some damage to the building.

All eight police cars have since been repaired and are available for operational duty.

Detective Superintendent Steve Bean said: "These two incidents do appear to be linked and would indicate that this crime was committed by a professional group.

"We have a team working on a number of cross-border offences at the moment and were on patrol in the area, which meant they could respond very quickly and only just missed the offenders.

"Incidents like this can have a big impact on the local community and I would like to assure members of the public that we are committed to finding those responsible.

"People should be aware, however, that there are criminals looking to steal high powered cars for use as getaway vehicles and they should not be complacent about their own security measures.

"Fortunately the damage to the eight cars did not affect our ability to respond to other incidents, and they are all now repaired."

Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in Stow Road, Moreton, or the A429, Stow, in the early hours of the morning is asked to call 101 quoting incidents 36 and 39 of November 9.