A POST Office employee was threatened by gun-wielding robbers wearing balaclavas in a terrifying raid.

Residents have condemned the 'horrifying' raid, which unfolded at Burwell Farm Post Office in Witney yesterday. 

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Two men stormed the shop in Burwell Drive at 9am, armed with weapons 'resembling' hand guns.

They threatened the staff member before escaping with a 'small quantity of cash', Thames Valley Police said. 

Oxford Mail:

Post Office in background. Pics by Harrison Jones

Part of one of the weapons was dropped at the scene and, following an extensive search of the area with the police helicopter, a 31-year-old man from Witney was arrested.

Police initially said the arrested man - who has now been released under investigation - was 35-years-old.

At least one of the robbers was still on the loose yesterday morning and members of the public were urged to call 999 if they see anyone matching the descriptions circulated by police.

A staff member at the Post Office, which doubles as Burwell Gift Shop, said he could not give further information but confirmed the shop would be shut until tomorrow morning.

An apologetic note on the branch's front door yesterday said it would be closed for the rest of the day.

Oxford Mail:

David Davey, who is a cashier at nearby Betfred, said: “I was working next door. A Post Office customer ran in, he said ‘there are two armed robbers in the post office, phone the police’.

“He ran back out and by then the robbers had run out.

“I came back out two minutes later and they [police] were chasing a guy in a green tracksuit and they caught him and handcuffed him.

"Then they arrested five people in that house.”

Police said there had only been one arrest.

Betfred deputy manager Dan Deakin, also from Witney, added: “It was an armed robbery. They did get away with money. I think if we had opened before them it could have been us. 

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“It was a bit surreal - you just don’t expect that.”

The first robber is described as a young man, who was wearing a black balaclava, black zip-up hooded top, black trainers, black jogging bottoms and black gloves.

He was of slim to medium build and his skin colour is not known.

The second - thought to be the man described by witnesses as being chased by police - was also wearing a black balaclava or scarf around his face, khaki green or grey hooded top, grey jogging bottoms and black trainers with blue markings.

He is about 5ft 10ins tall and of slim to medium build.

A sign near the shop says CCTV is in operation in the area.

Oxford Mail:

West Oxfordshire district and town councillor Jane Doughty, whose Witney South ward covers Burwell Drive, said she was 'horrified' by what happened.

She said: "The Post Office is an essential part of our community, and I am absolutely devastated for them.

"It's a very scary position for anyone to be in, it's traumatic. 

"It's a really special part of our community and I can't believe this has been inflicted on them.

"It's very close-knit down there. I just hope somebody comes forward and they get caught and punished for what they have done.

"I hope there were no elderly customers in there; it would have been terrifying."

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Investigating officer Detective Inspector Matthew Bick, based at Banbury police station, said: "I appreciate this is a highly concerning incident, and urgent investigations are ongoing while we look to locate all of the offenders.

"One person is in custody, and you will notice an increased police presence in the area while we continue our investigations.

"I am urging anybody who believes they witnessed the incident to call 101, quoting URN 331 (8/9).

"If anybody has any concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to one of our officers.

"If you see anybody matching these descriptions, don’t approach them, but contact 999.

"We are treating this incident as a top priority to locate the offenders and will continue to maintain a high visibility presence in the area while our investigation continues."

The Post Office is situated in a small retail section of a residential area, alongside a fish and chip shop, Chinese takeaway, Betfred and Spar supermarket.

Oxford Mail:

Pic: Ric Mellis

One resident in Burwell Drive, who asked not to be named, said his neighbour told him there was a police cordon in place around the shop yesterday morning. 

Reacting to news of the robbery, he said: "In this day and age, it happens.

"They don't worry about the safety of anyone concerned or whether they hurt them."

Witney residents reporting on social media said the police helicopter was still circling the town at midday.

Gary Weaver, stand-in-manager at Spar, said: “I was bringing in a delivery and we never really noticed anything and then a customer came oin here and said the Post Office has just been done over and then all of the police turned up.

"I’ve never seen anything like this before here. 

"We haven’t had any trouble here whatsoever - not even had a shop lifter since I have been here. 

"I don’t think anybody got hurt but they [Post Office staff] are shaken up. Hopefully the police have got some leads and they can find them.”

There was no police cordon at around midday yesterday. 

In January, staff at Minster Lovell Post Office - just a few minutes' drive from Burwell shops - were threatened with a knife during an armed robbery.