Armed robbers terrorise four-year-old in shop raid

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The Independent Online

An armed robber pointed a gun at a four-year-old girl, leaving her "shaking, crying and sobbing" during a raid on a convenience store yesterday.

The child was told to look away while a shop assistant was hit over the head with a baseball bat and others were threatened with a knife in the raid on the shop in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire.

The four robbers, who wore balaclavas, made off with a "substantial" amount of cash, Thames Valley Police said.

The girl, who has not been named, was among eight people in the One Stop convenience store when the robbers struck. Police are offering a £5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the gang, which also attempted to smash its way into a Post Office at the rear of the shop.

Mahesh Patel, 29, the store manager, said: "They were three big guys. They came in with their faces masked and two of them had baseball bats. They also had a knife and a gun. They tried to break the Post Office window and then they put a knife to the neck of an old lady, a pensioner, who was in the queue.

"Then they pointed the gun at the little girl who was in the queue. She was about four or five years old.

"They took my till and hit one of my supervisers over the head with a baseball bat. He was seriously injured and bleeding. After they hit him they were still after him and he ran outside. He didn't know what was happening, he was trying to protect his life." A fourth robber was waiting outside in a car park.

There were three staff in the store - two behind the till and one in the Post Office - when the robbers entered at 4.45pm through the main entrance. Mr Patel said staff were in "complete shock", adding: "I have been working here for five months and I have not even had swearing or anything like that in here before. Once someone tried to break in, but they didn't manage it."

The men made off with the cash in a carrier bag. They escaped in what detectives believe was a dark green Ford Focus or new-style Fiesta.

Last night, local businesses and residents said they were shocked by the events. Roger Mortimer, a chef at the neighbouring Red Lion pub, said: "We didn't know anything was going on until about 5.30pm when police turned up.

"Then one of our regulars came in and said he had been in the shop when it happened. He didn't appear to be upset but he was inside, you could tell. He said it didn't register with him at first because, after it happened, he went to pay for his stuff but the till had gone."

Ron Bullock, 80, a Second World War navy veteran, said: "I moved here 12 years ago and it was a really nice little place to live. But things have changed. It's quite a shock to have something like this happen but these days this sort of thing is more common.

"The trouble is, now it's all about instant gratification. Young people have never been told that they can't have something, so when they can't, they just turn to crime to get it."

A spokesman for T&S Stores, the owner of the One Stop chain, said: "This is a shocking incident. Our thoughts are with all those who witnessed this awful robbery."

Detective Constable Sarah Poolman said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for all those people in the shop. I would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time or anyone who knows anything about the incident to call us."