A GUNMAN threatened shop staff and stole cash during a terrifying raid.
The masked man walked into Simply Food and Drink in Fulwell and demanded workers empty the safe and till.
He then warned the shaken worker he would use the weapon if they did not hand over the money.
The robber then snatched cash from the safe before fleeing the Newcastle Road shop. Detectives are not releasing the amount of money that was taken.
The weapon was not fired during the raid and staff were left shaken but uninjured.
Police have launched an investigation into the incident and have stepped up patrols to reassure residents.
But people living in the area claim the robbery, which happened at 10pm on Sunday night, has left them scared.
Dave Plains, 68, who uses the shop regularly, said: “It’s frightening that people are using guns nowadays.
“It must have been absolutely terrifying for the people working in the shop, I’m glad they’re ok and I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if he had used the gun.”
Clara Stores, 72, of Newcastle Road, added: “I remember a time when there was none of this and people could walk around safely.
“It’s worrying to know there are people out there walking about with weapons, and I bet it was all for a few pounds.”
The man is described as in his early 20s and is about 5ft 5in tall.
Detective Sergeant Rob Ridley said: “We’re carrying out extensive inquiries to trace the person responsible and would urge anyone who was in or around Newcastle Road on Sunday night and saw anything suspicious or out of the ordinary to contact us.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Tony Carty, who covers the area, added: “This was clearly a distressing incident for staff at the store and we will be carrying out extra patrols in the area to offer reassurance to the community and answer any concerns anyone may have.”
In March 2007, Simply Food and Drink was targeted by serial thief Gavin Sproat, then 22, who threatened staff with a knife before taking off with cash.
In May 2008, Sproat, of East Moor Road, Pallion, was jailed for 32 weeks after admitting three thefts.
Anyone with any information on Sunday’s incident should contact police on 101 ex 69191 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.