THIS is the terrifying moment a shop worker was threatened by masked men with knives in one of two separate raids.

Emma Jackson was stacking shelves at Blackrod Convenience Store in New Street, Blackrod, when the three masked men entered the shop at about 6.25pm on Friday.

One of the men brandished a knife and began pointing it at Ms Jackson while demanding she hand over cash and cigarettes.

She says that the incident left her “shocked and scared”.

She added: “I was just stacking shelves when I heard the door slam open. Straight away I thought ‘that’s not right’.

“I went through and the first thing I saw was three men walk in and one had a knife, so I just did as they said.

“He started demanding money from the till and trashing the shop.

“It felt as though it lasted for ages.

“I was shocked and scared. All I could think was that I needed to do what they are asking because there is a knife and I think if I hadn’t done it he would’ve used the knife.”

It is alleged that as they left the shop, one shouted to the woman, “tell John I will be back.”

Two hours later, at 8.35pm, four men threatened staff at McColl’s in Newbrook Road, Over Hulton, and made off with cigarettes.

An eyewitness reported that one of the robbers was in possession of a crow bar.

Two members of staff were working at the time and ran into the back, but were not hurt.

It is the second robbery at the store in as many months.

In November, five men wearing balaclavas targeted the shop.

They threatened staff behind the counter and demanded they hand over cigarettes and empty the tills into a bag they were carrying.

The group then demanded access to the safe, which they emptied, before escaping around the back of the shop.

Following the latest incident, McColl’s was closed on Saturday, citing ‘circumstances beyond our control’.

Police are investigating whether the two incidents might be connected.

Westhoughton town councillor David Wilkinson claims that there have been a spate of such incidents in the area recently, leaving residents and business owners concerned.

He added: “Police resources for traditional neighbourhood policing have been drained and we are now seeing the downside of those changes.

“The cuts to policing have gone way too far and now need to be addressed.

“Resources are being focused on things like terrorism and cyber crime, but what about day to day crime when people are walking down the street, at home, or at their businesses?

“The government has to put resources back into policing. People are frightened and criminals are having a field day.”

Anyone with information can contact the police on 101.