A THIRD shop may have been targeted by the same gang of masked, machete-wielding armed robbers operating in and around Bolton, according to police.
The 44-year-old owner of Ma Food and Wine in Atherton Road, Hindley — understood to be a Swiss man who bought the business about six months ago — was threatened by a man with a machete at 9.05pm on December 30.
At the same time, another man is understood to have stolen money and cigarettes worth between £4,000 and £5,000.
On December 23, a Co-op supermarket in Newbrook Road, Over Hulton, and the Ringley Stores in Ringley Road West, Radcliffe, were targeted by three men using machetes within the space of two hours. Police said they were investigating the possibility the two raids were linked.
The Hindley incident bears similarities with the other raids, including the weapon used, the fact the robbers targeted cash and cigarettes, and that they kept their faces covered.
They also used a small white van to escape from the shop — a means also used by those behind the Over Hulton Co-op robbery.
A police spokesman said: “We are keeping an open mind at the moment. We are not formally linking them at this time but it is possible and we cannot rule it out.
“No arrests have been made in relation to any of the three robberies.”
One man involved in the Hindley raid is described as muscular, wearing a grey hooded top with thick white draw-strings, grey tracksuit bottoms, black gloves and a balaclava. The second wore a black hooded coat and dark blue jeans.
Det Con Darren Reid said: “We believe the van used in the robbery outside the shop was there for about 10 minutes before the offenders used it to drive away.
“I would ask anyone who may have seen the van outside Ma Food and Wine between 9.05pm and 9.15pm to contact us.
“Also, if you saw anything suspicious or believe you may have seen these men, I would urge you to call police.”
Three men stole thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes and cash from the Over Hulton Co-op at about 8.20pm on December 23, with one man witnessed to be carrying a machete.
At 7pm on the same night, three men had raided Ringley Stores in Radcliffe, taking £300 in cash. All three were described as carrying machetes or large knives.
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 7081 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.