AN armed raider burst into a post office and demanded cash in front of horrified customers.

Frightened staff at Highcliffe Post Office in Lymington Road handed over money before the gunman fled with an undisclosed sum of money.

Armed officers rushed to the normally quiet area at 9.34am to discover the man, whose face was covered with a scarf, had fled in the direction of Christchurch.

The post office was closed for the rest of the morning to allow officers to gather evidence.

Now police have appealed to members of the public for information in a bid to identify the gunman.

The offender is described as white, in his 40s, around 6ft tall and of medium build. He was wearing a black anorak, a black beanie hat with a grey stripe, grey rimmed glasses and a black scarf over his face.,

“A man entered the premises with a firearm, demanded money and left shortly afterward with a quantity of cash, heading toward Christchurch – nobody was injured” said a police spokesman.

County councillor Colin Jamieson said: “This is absolutely shocking.

“While we would all condemn these appalling criminal acts, I would like to reassure residents that the police will be doing everything they can to apprehend the perpetrator.

“We must remember that crime is at an all time low in the area but equally when even one incident happens, it does have an effect on people.”

‘It’s so quiet round here normally... ’

Lesley O’Neil, former head of Highcliffe Business Association and owner of Lesley’s Collectables in the village said: “It’s awful. The owners are so nice. We are all devastated for them.”

Cllr Myra Mawbey, who represents Highcliffe ward said: “I'm really shocked. We don’t have armed things going on in Highcliffe. It’s a sign of the times but crime is falling in the borough.”

Traders near the post office also spoke of their shock. Tina Britton, who works in Napoleon’s bar, said: “It’s so quiet round here normally – it’s scary to think this has happened.”

Bill Cotter, who owns the Crafty Wood Shop opposite the post office, said: “Police came round this morning to ask if we had any CCTV of it, but it wasn’t on unfortunately.

“I’ve heard he was wearing sunglasses on over a balaclava, so it could be difficult to track him down.”

Alan Smart, who manages the Oakhaven Hospice Trust charity shop, said: “It must have happened very quickly. I went out for a moment and when I came back the police were there.”

Dorothy Ramsay, left, who has lived in Highcliffe for 32 years, said: “Of course, it is pension day, so that might explain why he went in today. It’s very unpleasant. Things like this don’t tend to happen in Highcliffe.”

One passer-by, who didn’t want to be named, said he’d heard £800 was taken and police told traders nearby not to work alone in their shops.

Louise Buchanan, 21, left, who is visiting from Australia, said: “It’s quite a surprise to hear this has happened in a place like this. It’s very quiet here, so it’s a bit of a shock.”

The post office is run by a married couple who, when contacted by the Echo,  declined to speak.

Witnesses and anyone with information have been urged to call Dorset Police in confidence on 101 or the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111. 

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