Thugs wearing balaclavas and armed with a knife and an axe threatened staff during a robbery at a Co-op store in Heybridge.

Essex Police have released CCTV images of the two men wanted in connection with the incident.

The robbers entered the East of England Co-op store, in Wood Road, Heybridge, at around 8.15pm yesterday.

One was armed with a knife and the other with a small axe. The men proceeded to threaten the staff members who were inside the store.

They demanded cash from a safe and the tills, leaving with a hundreds of pounds in cash.

The men escaped down Wood Road in the direction of Colchester Road.

Both were wearing balaclavas when the robbery took place.

Detective Inspector Gary Biddle, of Chelmsford CID, said: “Two men entered the store armed with weapons while a number of customers and staff were inside.

"They then threatened two shop workers, demanded cash and ran from the scene.

“Fortunately no one was hurt during the robbery but the incident has left the workers and customers shaken.

“Our investigations are already developing and we would like to talk to the men in the CCTV images."

Residents reported a heavy police presence in the area after the incident and the Co-op store was cordoned off whilst investigations were ongoing.

Ward councillor Miriam Lewis said the Co-op was well-used and an integral part of the community in Heybridge.

"Clearly our thoughts go out to the staff because it is a horrendous thing for anybody to face and I hope they are getting all the support they need," she said.

"It is not what we expect to see in the Maldon District.

"If anybody saw anything like strange vehicles hanging around in the area or has heard gossip on the grapevine, people must report it immediately because this is a community where we do not accept this level of violence."

Anyone with information about the incident or the men in the images is asked to contact Chelmsford CID on quoting crime reference 42/5734/18 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A spokesperson for the East of England Co-op said: “We are doing all we can to support the colleagues involved in this distressing incident, and are working closely with local Police forces to assist in their enquiries.”