Five armed robberies on shops in Leicestershire in just 48 hours
Five armed raids were carried out on shops in the space of just 48 hours.
Police believe the five gunpoint robberies, in Leicester, Thurmaston and Houghton on the Hill, may be linked.
In each case, masked men, one carrying a handgun, carried out the robberies just a few minutes before their victims were due to close for the day.
They threatened staff with a handgun before escaping with cash or cigarettes.
On three occasions the gun was fired but nobody was injured. It is now believed to have been a replica.
The most recent robbery happened at Houghton Garage, Houghton on the Hill, at 7.55pm on Sunday.
A cashier at the petrol station was threatened at gunpoint and the robbers helped themselves to cash from the till and a packet of cigarettes.
The firm's owner Jim Funnell said: "The member of staff stayed calm and pressed the alarm which alerted the police, even though he was under some duress. It happened five minutes before we were due to close.
"We are very vigilant at that time of the day and make sure there's more than one of us here if we see anything suspicious.
"But on this occasion we were taken by surprise."
The first target, a shop in Uppingham Road, Leicester, was robbed at 8.15pm on Friday.
Detectives believe the gang then struck three times the next day – beginning at the Local Convenience Store, in Humberstone Lane, Thurmaston, at 8.10pm. About 35 minutes later, they burst into a shop in Leicester's Saffron Lane.
An hour later, at 9.45pm, they robbed a shop in Cardinals Walk, Netherhall.
The owner of the Cardinals Walk shop, who has asked to remain anonymous, said her 18-year-old son had wrestled with one of the robbers.
She said: "Two of them barged into the shop and said, 'give us the money and the fags'. That's all they said.
"One of them was waving a gun around and pointed it straight at my head.
"My son told them to leave me alone and we heard a loud bang when the gun went off.
"Now I think it was some kind of replica because, even though they fired it, there was no damage.
"I'm still shaken by what happened and I can't concentrate. I keep looking at the CCTV to see who is coming and going. I shouldn't have to live like this."
A member of the family which owns the Local Convenience Store, in Humberstone Lane, Thurmaston, said: "My mum was serving behind the counter when they came in.
"She told them there was no money but one of them went behind the counter and started to take as many packets of cigarettes as he could."
Police arrested four people – three boys, one aged 17 and two aged 16, and a 25-year-old woman – late on Sunday night.
Last night, the force confirmed one of the 16-year-olds and the 25-year-old woman had been released without charge.
A 16-year-old and 17-year-old remained in police custody.
Police said they had stepped up patrols across the city after the Friday night robbery.
Detective Inspector Simon Cure urged witnesses to come forward. He said: "We can never have too much information."
Detectives were yesterday still reviewing CCTV footage and speaking to victims.
It is understood the five shop robberies are not being linked to Saturday's robbery at Santander, in Leicester's Narborough Road, or an earlier robbery at the bank's branch in Woodgate, on Wednesday, October 3. A cash in transit robbery at De Montfort University on October 9 is also under investigation.