Terrified shoppers fled a supermarket after masked men assaulted a worker in the first of two raids.
The gang struck at the Co-operative store in Warrington Road, Rainhill , at around 7pm yesterday.
The group of men, who had their faces covered, made off with cigarettes after grabbing a shop assistant, pulling her over and injuring her wrist and hand.
Half-an-hour later, the same gang are thought to have raided the Bargain Booze store in Liverpool Road, Maghull , where workers were threatened and cigarettes again stolen.
A Co-op customer, who did not wish to be named, told the ECHO he arrived at the store as the robbery was taking place.
He said: “I parked my car and a couple came rushing out. They were terrified. They said ‘don’t go in, don’t go in’. They said the place was being held-up.
“The poor lady was in a terrible, terrible state, she was shaking. The next thing I heard sirens and the police came.”
A local shop worker saw the masked men flee the shop and speed off in a black Volkswagen Golf.
She took down the car’s registration and gave it to police.
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, said: “They were all masked but you could see their eyes. I didn’t recognise any of them.”
The manager of the Co-op branch today said his staff were “okay” but had been left shaken by the incident, adding: “They’re as good as can be expected.”
A spokesman for The Co-operative Food company said: “Four masked men entered our store in Warrington Road, Rainhill, at around 7pm last night.
"They assaulted a member of staff, before escaping with a quantity of cigarettes.
“The member of staff involved did not suffer any serious injuries, although she was badly shaken by the experience.
“CCTV footage has been given to the police who are investigating and, as with any incident such as this, we would appeal for anyone with information to come forward.”
The manager of the Bargain Booze shop also said all of his staff were okay and added: “We’re just grateful they have caught somebody.”
A Bargain Booze spokesman added: “Our main priority is the welfare of our staff following the incident and we are assisting police with their enquiries.”
Four men, 25, 26, 26 and 41, were arrested on suspicion of robbery by police last night and remained in custody today.
Anybody with any information about the incidents should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
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