A robber armed with a blade held-up three Bispham shops in 10 minutes – sparking a frantic police manhunt and lock down.
The man threatened staff 'with a knife or scissors' at Bispham Local Store in Bispham Road, police said, before striking at Select Convenience in Holmfield Road, and then at McColl’s in Norbreck Road, just minutes later.
He fled with £200 in a black Nissan at around 4.20pm yesterday, before dumping it in Devonshire Road and running off after a police stinger was used to pop the car's tyres.
Residents reported being ordered to stay indoors as road-blocks were set up, gardens and homes searched by sniffer dogs, and the police helicopter called out.
A 25-year-old man was tasered and arrested on suspicion of robbery in Sandhurst Avenue just over two hours later, police said.
He was still in custody this afternoon, and is being questioned by detectives.
Staff at the three shops were shaken by otherwise unharmed, The Gazette understands.
Chris Steel, 27, said he walked into McColl’s to see two girls behind the counter ‘shaking and crying’ and a man in a hooded top shouting to ‘get money out of the till’.
He said: “He had the pull string pulled up really tight so you could hardly see his face.
“He got the money and I asked the guy next to me if he had a knife. When I heard he had a knife I thought I wouldn’t get involved.
“I hid in the aisle when he went out.”
Councillor Luke Taylor said he saw the drama unfold from his home in Sandhurst Avenue.
"We heard the helicopters above and saw the police cars going past," he said.
"It went quiet for about an hour and, as we were looking out of the window, this fellow in a high-vis jacket jumped around the back of the fire station and down Sandhurst Avenue and down the side of the flats at the end."
Officers followed, Coun Taylor said, and returned around 10 minutes later with a man in handcuffs.
He added: "The police certainly dealt with it very well. They put their lives on the line for local people and got it under control. Every credit to them."
One resident, who lives close to Bispham Local Store in Bispham Road, said he saw a police car parked on the bus stop outside at around 4.15pm.
He said: "It suddenly turned its lights and sirens on and sped off up Warbreck Hill Road. I remember thinking it had either had just been given a call to get to, or there had been a robbery and they had been told the guy had just gone off in that direction."
Marie, 37, who declined to give her last name, lives opposite Select Convenience, and said: "I noticed it was shut at around 4.45pm.
"There was one crime scene investigation van and we saw CID or someone going inside, The police weren't searching around here because he [the robber] had already legged it at that point.
"It's a very close-knit community and everyone looks out for everyone. The shop is the hub of life round here. People depend on it and the people who run it are very nice."
Greenlands ward councillor Christine Wright said: "It must have been appalling for the staff. I'm totally shocked and mortified by it.
"I feel for the shop staff. I'm glad nobody was hurt but this sort of thing can unnerve people for a very long time."
A police spokesman added: "There were three robberies conducted at knife-point in close proximity to each other. The good news is that a suspect has been arrested.
"As a result of a sting, officers deployed to the area arrested an individual on suspicion of those incidents.
"But it was an exceptional arrest made possible by the police working hand-in-hand with members of the public."