TWO shops that were smashed up by armed robbers could have been raided by the same gang, police said.

Detectives are investigating whether the two incidents on Tuesday are linked.

At about 3.15pm a group of men got out of a silver Volvo and headed towards Albemarle and Bond pawnbrokers in Corporation Street, armed with what is thought to be a baseball bat or sledgehammer.

But their attempt was foiled as they were spotted by security staff who scared them off, and they fled emptyhanded.

Two hours later, at 5.45pm, there was a smash-and-grab robbery at Nouman Jewellers in Halliwell Road.

Three men wearing balaclavas smashed their way into the shop and destroyed glass cabinets using what is believed to be a sledgehammer.

They stole Asian jewellery, thought to be worth several thousands of pounds, and fled in a getaway car.

No one was injured but staff were said to be left shaken. They were too upset to speak to The Bolton News yesterday. The shop was closed while forensic experts examined the site.

A police spokesman said the possibility of a link between the robberies was being investigated.

In 2009 Nouman Jewellers was raided by an axe-wielding robber who got away with £50,000 of jewellery. A schoolboy, then aged 15, was caught up in the terrifying incident while helping his sister to open up the family business.