Boxing Day terror as knifeman targets village shops in Tyrone
Terrified staff were threatened at knifepoint during two separate Boxing Day raids which took place within a 20-minute period.
The robberies happened yesterday morning at shops in Co Tyrone villages just six miles apart.
In the first incident, a man entered a store on the Augher Road in Clogher at around 10.40am.
He threatened a member of staff with a knife before making off in a white van, having stolen a quantity of cigarettes. The same vehicle was then used in a similar incident at Main Street, Fivemiletown, shortly before 11am.
A sum of money and other items were taken during the armed robbery.
The vehicle involved in both incidents is believed to have been stolen from a house in west Belfast.
An SDLP councillor for the area, Anthony McGonnell, described the two robberies as "disgraceful".
"It is bad enough when these things happen, but particularly so at this time of the year," he said.
"Retailers are going through a difficult enough time and shops have to open up today to keep their customer base," the councillor said.
"They are providing a service which is very, very important to people, particularly those in rural communities.
"To subject staff to that sort of attack is absolutely and utterly disgraceful."
Police yesterday arrested a 24-year-old in connection with the robberies and a number of other offences.
He remained in police custody last night.
Detectives appealed for anybody with information to contact police in Dungannon on 0845 600 8000, or to contact Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Earlier this week concerns were raised about a crime gang operating in rural Fermanagh following a spate of burglaries on the same day.
One of the properties targeted on Monday was that of Geordie and Bella Evans in the village of Lack.
Cash and personal possessions were taken, including jewellery which belonged to their late daughter Sharon, who died in a car crash 12 years ago.
On the same day, two properties were burgled in Maguiresbridge, and another raided in Drumquin, Co Tyrone.