TWO landlords are convinced that their village pubs were broken into and robbed of cash by the same burglars.
Publicans Keith Long, of the Dog and Partridge, and Dave Balcombe, of St Anne's Castle, at opposite ends of Great Leighs, believe the thieves had local knowledge.
The Dog and Partridge was broken into on Saturday, May 26, at 2am and more than £1,000 in bar takings snatched.
A week earlier, on Saturday, May 19, thieves broke into St Anne's Castle, and snatched an ATM cash machine, containing around £800.
Mr Balcombe said: "They got in through the kitchen window, damaging it, and then probably sack-barrowed the ATM out through a back door – fortunately there was only a few hundred pounds in it.
"We do have CCTV cameras outside, but they evaded them.
"Whoever did this knew the layout of the pub and went for one thing – the ATM."
New Zealander Keith Long said: "Just like at the Castle, they went for the cash and nothing else – two tills and a cash box.
"I too believe it's the work of the same crew, so let's hope the police get a good tip-off."
Both landlords said they were putting the thefts behind them, saying it would not spoil the festivities they have lined up for the Jubilee.
Mr Balcombe said he and his wife Patricia were over the moon that the Castle had just been chosen for the first time by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in their Good Beer Guide for 2012.
"It's a great honour to be chosen for the first time since we began running this inn 11 years ago and we are not going to let the thieves get us down."
The Balcombes are looking forward to their big fundraiser of the year, the annual garden party on August 26 when they again promote the Essex Air Ambulance – for which they have raised more than £25,000.
Mr Long, a veteran All Blacks supporter, lost his wife Rene, who has relatives in Essex, in May 2011 when she suffered a heart attack.
"I contemplated returning to New Zealand but our regulars and villagers showed me so much care and compassion over my great loss that I decided to stay in Great Leighs.
"This is my home and I won't let a little theft ruin my peace of mind thanks to the wonderful relationships I have built up in just 15 months."
Mr Long had previously been a relief manager during yearly visits to England from Christchurch, New Zealand, which took them all over the UK.
"What made Rene and I finally decide to settle in England was when the Warners hotel we managed back in Christchurch collapsed as a result of an earthquake.
"We saw lots of UK public houses, but we fell in love with the Dog and Partridge."