DETECTIVES are now searching for up to 10 people said to have been involved in smashing their way into a shopping centre so they could carry out an armed raid on a jewellers.

Officers widened the search as they issued a second appeal for witnesses following the burglary of Chris Shan Jewellers in The Mall, Blackburn.

The gang who wore dark clothing and balaclavas, used a sledgehammer and crowbar to access the jewellers before escaping with an undisclosed quantity of jewellery.

The burglary was discovered in the early hours of Tuesday after a fire at the shopping centre was reported to firefighters.

Officers said at least 10 offenders were involved, with eight people entering The Mall.

Following the raid two further suspects were seen running from Church Street onto Ainsworth Street and then towards Barbara Castle Way, police said.

Yesterday Chris Shan Jewellers re-opened for business.

Det Insp Tim McDermott, of Blackburn CID, said: "This was clearly a well-planned crime committed at a premises with substantial security by an organised group of criminals.

"The people involved entered via Church Street and exited through the doors onto Town Hall Street near the County Court. They clearly knew the layout of the shopping centre.

"We now know the offenders were in Blackburn town centre for at least an hour before they entered The Mall and I believe the group will have conducted reconnaissance of the area at some point prior to the offence.

"As part of that line of enquiry we are studying a significant amount of CCTV footage.

"I would also urge anyone who, with the benefit of hindsight, believes they may have seen anything suspicious in or around The Mall that they think may be connected to this offence to contact us.

"In particular, we can see there are members of the public in the vicinity of Ainsworth Street and Church Street around the time of the offence who we have not yet spoken to.

"I would reassure retailers and the local community the police have stepped up night time patrols in the area and we are working closely with the management of The Mall.

"The nature of the security regime at The Mall has assisted us greatly, enabled a swift response on the night and provided some excellent lines of enquiry.”

Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting log reference 0069 of February 9.