Four shop workers were subjected to a "terrifying ordeal" after they were tied up by a masked gang during an armed robbery at a Stretton supermarket.
Four masked robbers, armed with axes, crowbars and knives, targeted the Co-op store, in Main Street, just after 6am yesterday morning, Thursday, February 22.
Staffordshire police are appealing for witnesses after the gang tied up four members of staff using cable ties and stole a number of items from the store, including scratch cards and am unknown quantity of cash.
A fifth gang member acted as a get away driver waiting in a dark coloured car spotted waiting outside, detectives believe.
West Midlands Ambulance Service also attended the store after the raid but there were no serious injuries, said a spokesman.
The police, local businesses, residents and councillors have all spoken of their shock following the robbery.
DS Adam Yates, of Staffordshire Police, said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for the staff and we would urge any witnesses to come forward and speak to us.
The store was closed for nine hours, re-opening at 3.30pm, while police and forensics officers carried out investigations at the scene.
Stretton resident Timothy Bryant, 57, of Priory Lands, was passing the Co-op on his way to Burton rail station when he noticed police activity outside.
He said: "I was absolutely shocked to find out about the incident when I got to work later.
"This is the sort of thing you never expect to happen in Stretton. It such a peaceful place. I don’t think I can think of any other crimes such as this happening in the village since I moved here in 2016.
"You might think of an armed robbery happening in London or Manchester, or similar places. But Stretton? No way.
"I really feel for the staff at the Co-op. It is my local supermarket, and the staff are all incredibly friendly.
"What they went through must have been awful.
"I just hope the police catch the criminals who carried out this dreadful crime."
Councillor Len Milner, who represents Stretton on East Staffordshire Borough Council, expressed concern over the level of brutality in such raids in shops across the country.
The ex-Mayor of East Staffordshire said this morning: "It is an absolute disgrace. I feel extremely sorry and concerned for the people involved who were tied up. This is getting quite prevalent across the country and it is concerning.
"I didn’t know about it until I read about it as I was in bed at the time but the police tape is still there so no-one can get in.
"The level of violence used is very frightening. I am surprised this happened as Stretton is normally quiet and it is rare that we get something as bad as this.
"I am worried about what could happen in the future. I know that the Co-op’s CCTV is quite substantive."
Nearby business owners said they felt scared following the incident.
Mohammad Ali, owner of the post office opposite the Co-op, said: "I live on the premises here but did not hear any alarms. I started opening up at 6.30am and that is when I saw a police car and the car park was being cordoned off.
"They were just about to open at that time. I heard they forced the staff into a room.
"It hasn’t happened in the post office before. It is very scary."
Peter Eves, owner of neighbouring shop Peter’s Pets said: "We park at the back of our shop near the Co-op car park and I saw the police tape. I knew something bad must have happened but didn’t know it was a robbery.
"It happens. My daughter had a knife pulled to her throat in this shop about 30 years ago.
"It is scary what has happened. What can you do? You can’t do anything to stop it."
Glyn Battenbo, owner of Glyn and Company Hairdressers, located next to Peter’s Pets, said: "It is not the first time it has happened to that shop but not to that extent before.
"We heard about it when we saw the police this morning.
"It is horrendous what has happened."
West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed crews were called to the scene at 6.09am.
A spokesman said: "We were called to the scene at 6.09am with reports that there was a woman suffering the effects of shock.
"One ambulance was sent to the scene and paramedics assessed the woman who was suffering shock. She was then discharged at the site."
The team at the Co-op were left shaken but unharmed by the robbery, said police.
A spokesman from Central England Co-operative said: "We can confirm that an armed robbery took place at our Stretton food store this morning.
"The members of staff on duty are unharmed, but they are obviously shaken by the incident and our primary concern is their safety and wellbeing.
"We are giving our full support to the police while they investigate this matter."
The shop reopened around nine hours later by 3.30pm.
Anyone with information should call Staffordshire Police on 101 quoting incident 90 of February 22.
The robbery comes just two days after thieves struck at the Co-operative store, in Shortheath Road, Moira, twice in less than two weeks.
On both occasions a large quantity of cigarettes was stolen. It is not known if this raid is connected to the Stretton one.
In the latest raid on the Moria store, which was once the site of the village’s fire station, a window was smashed and thieves forced their way in. The latest burglary took place sometime between 1.30am and 2.10am on Tuesday, February 20.
The first raid took place between 1.30am and 2.25am on Friday, February 9, when burglars broke into the Co-op , forced open the kiosk shutters and stole a large quantity of cigarettes.
No members of staff were present at the time.
* On August 19, last year, Tremayne McKoy robbed a woman of £490 in cash at the Co-operative store, in Main Street, Rosliston.
He threatened one of staff with a knife before escaping with the cash. In January, this year, he was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.