A MAN threatened a woman with a large metal object demanding she handed over money at a cashpoint in Christchurch this morning.

The woman, who is in her fifties, refused to hand over the cash and the would-be robber fled the scene, prompting a mass police hunt in the area.

Officers were called to the cashpoint outside Nationwide in High Street at around 8.30am.

A spokesman from Dorset Police said: “A local woman in her fifties had just withdrawn some cash when a car pulled up alongside her.

“A male passenger jumped out and threatened the victim with a metal object similar to a tyre iron.

“He demanded she handed over the money however, she refused.”

The offender got back into a dark blue estate car, thought to be a VW Passat, which drove off at speed in the direction of the Priory.

Police conducted an extensive search of the area with assistance from the NPAS helicopter, but failed to locate the offender.

Officers are urging anyone with information about his whereabouts to come forward.

He is described as a white man in his forties of scruffy appearance and was wearing a yellow fluorescent long sleeved jacket, blue hoody underneath, light blue/grey coloured trousers or jeans, white trainers and a black balaclava at the time of the incident.

Police said the victim was not injured during the incident.

Shocked shoppers, traders and residents said incidents such as this were incredibly rare in the town.

Local resident Sheila Kirkham, aged 73, said: “We only moved here from Bournemouth at the beginning of the year and are still finding our feet but it’s so quiet and peaceful.

“You don’t expect that sort of thing in Christchurch.”

Security officer Sean Wellings said he wasn’t surprised to hear the news but feared it would scare some elderly residents in the area.

The 21-year-old said: “It just seems to be the way things are going. Even in a relatively quiet retirement community things like this can happen.

“Considering the number of elderly folk that live locally, they will all hear about this and they’ll be scared.”

He added: “I’ve got a lot of elderly residents in Christchurch. It’s sad.”

Tim Nokes, owner of the clothing store Edgar and Scott, said he didn’t think it would put people off visiting the area.

He said: “I was very shocked. It’s not what you expect to hear but one incident doesn’t determine what a town is.”

Local resident Jo Everitt, aged 43, added: “It’s very unusual to hear of things like this around here. I feel very comfortable here day and night.”

Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset Police in confidence on 101, quoting incident number 09:66.