CASH and cigarettes were plundered by masked gangs from stores on opposite sides of Wigan borough in almost simultaneous raids.
In both instances staff were forced to lie on the floor by masked and armed men. A Ford Focus also figured in both robberies.
But detectives say that they are not at present linking the robberies which took place just 15 minutes apart in Atherton and Pemberton.
In the latter raid five armed men attacked Bargain Booze on Ormskirk Road at 9.40pm on Monday, January 23.
They were carrying weapons, forced staff to the floor and demanded cash. They also took a manager into the back office before fleeing in a stolen Vauxhall van – registration NU53 WTL – which was soon abandoned on nearby Ellesmere Road as the gang switched to a Ford Focus, registration RK07 WCL. The raiders are described as white men wearing balaclavas and gloves and dressed in dark clothing.
Det Con Graham Ellis of Wigan CID said: “I appeal to anyone who might have information to come forward. I would urge anyone who witnessed this incident or knows anything about the above-mentioned vehicles to contact us.”
Only quarter of an hour earlier the Co-op on Gadfield Grove, Atherton, had also been robbed by three men armed with a hammer. They ordered two employees to lie on the floor before stuffing a large amount of cigarettes into bed sheets.
Money was snatched from the tills and the trio left in a grey Ford Focus, registration X668. The number plates had been stolen from the Leigh area the previous night.
The man holding a hammer is described as 6ft tall, of medium build and spoke with a local accent. All three wore dark clothing, dark trainers and had their faces covered.
Det Con Gavin Cunliffe said: “This was a traumatic experience for the staff and I would appeal to anyone who saw these men leave the shop and get in the car to contact us as soon as possible.
“I would also ask members of the public who has been approached by people selling cigarettes or anyone who has information about the number plates being stolen to get in touch.”
A police spokesman said the raids were not currently being linked because of the large distance between the shops and several dissimilarities between the crimes. Those with details should ring CID on 0161 856 7252 or 0161 856 5307, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.