A GANG of burglars is being hunted by police after 15 nursery schools were ransacked in two months.

Police said the thieves had been breaking into pre-school buildings in Blackburn, Darwen and Hyndburn in search of cash and electrical equipment.

Following the latest burglary, staff at First Class Childcare in Rishton were forced to turn 60 children away after discovering they had been broken into for the second time in two weeks.

The gang caused more than £10,000 in damage but it is believed they walked away empty handed.

Elaine Metcalfe, the owner of the Noble Street nursery, said: “When we arrived to open up on we couldn’t get into the building because the lock on the main door had been damaged so much.

“It really doesn’t seem fair. We never have cash on the premises so we don’t know why we were being targeted.

“The emotional strain of being burgled affects everyone. I don’t know how these people can live with themselves.

“This is a nursery and the children have been really upset. They just keep saying, ‘the nasty men have been in’.

“There was so much damage that we had to send all our 60 children home.

“So not only do we now face the cost of the tidy up operation we have also lost a whole days takings.”

As well as smashing windows, breaking external and internal locks and damaging a photocopier and filing cabinets, the burglars cut the electricity supply leaving a full fridge and freezer to defrost in the early morning raid.

Officers in Eastern division’s Target team have linked the burglary, which happened during the early hours of Wednesday, to 14 others reported in East Lancashire in December and January.

It is thought the break-ins are being carried out by the same group of people, who smash up the pre-schools as they are looking for property to steal.

Sgt Eric Halford, who is leading the investigation, said: “These burglars are breaking into children’s nurseries looking for cash and expensive technical equipment often located in the offices.

“I urge anyone who may have their suspicions about someone, or if anyone has noticed a group of people acting suspiciously in and around a nursery, to come forward and contact police.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101.