A police helicopter tracked a van loaded with stolen cigarettes for 30 miles through Hertfordshire, Essex and East London before officers arrested a man suspected of breaking into a filling station.

An alert passer-by dialled 999 after seeing suspicious activity at the Shell Rye Street Garage in Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, just before 3am. It was the site’s third night-time raid in six months. Assisted by an observer in the helicopter, police patrol cars on the ground were able to find the van in an Ilford street and arrest a suspect in a nearby house. Hundreds of cigarettes were discovered in the abandoned vehicle.