A woman has described her relief that her brother was not hurt when masked raiders broke into the quiet shop below where he was sleeping.
The two men wearing balaclavas forced their way into Village Stores in Church Road, Potten End, at around 11.30pm on Saturday after breaking the glass in its door.
They stole £4,000 worth of cigarettes and it cost £300 to repair the door.
But the thing that concerns shop-owner Meher Choudhury, 39, the most is the hammer that they left behind.
Her brother Easir, 34, was in a flat upstairs as the burglars came in. He heard noises and shouted: “Do not take anything,” after calling 999.
Mrs Choudhury said: “I am glad he did not confront them, because something really bad could have happened.
“When someone wants to take something from you, they do not look at who you are, they just want to take it.
“If he had come down, I do not think he would have been here any more, because they would have hit him so hard.”
The burglars scarpered before police got there – but a neighbour saw them escaping towards Nettleden Road in a distinctive early 1990s car. It was similar in shape and size to a Ford Granada or Cavalier.
One of the crooks was wearing a dark, quilted Barbour-style jacket and the other a light grey, waist length jacket.
Mrs Choudhury said nothing like this has happened before in the 71/2 years she has worked at the shop.
She described the burglars as ‘disgusting’ – but said they would not deter her, husband Mizan, 43, and Easir from running the family business.
She said: “I wish this would never happen to any shop, because it does affect the person who runs it and works there.
“I worry now, because what’s going to happen during the day time? This could happen again.”
She now wants to put shutters on the shop to stop future night-time burglaries – but may not get planning permission for this, as the shop is in a conservation area. However, an alarm will be installed later this week.
Lisa Walsh of Herts Police, who is investigating the crime, appealed for anyone who saw the 1990s car to get in touch.
She said: “While it was late on a Saturday night I am confident someone must have seen this vehicle or the two suspects.”
Anyone with any information on the break-in should call police on 101.