TWO Uttoxeter men have been charged in connection with alleged armed raids and a stand-off with gun-wielding cops.
Grove House Post Office, Alton, was targeted at 6.20pm on Tuesday and, 20 minutes later, crooks carrying a knife struck at the Co-op in Tean.
The drama then switched to a flat in Ash Close, Uttoxeter, where a lengthy stand-off involving armed officers eventually ended when three people surrendered to police custody.
A 20-year-old man from Burton was yesterday released but two men from Uttoxeter have been charged.
Andrew Gregory, 37, of High Street, Uttoxeter, and Kane Johnson, 36 of Ash Close, were yesterday set for a preliminary hearing at Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court.
The pair are charged with robbery, attempted robbery and two counts of possession of an offensive weapon in public.
Those living in and around the Ash Close apartments told the Post and Times how a police armed response unit’s negotiations to lure the suspects out of their hideout lasted several hours.
Neighbouring roads were cordoned off to keep pedestrians safe while officers negotiated with the suspects.
Cherry Allen, who lives opposite the flats in Windsor Road, said she feared for her children’s safety.
She said: “My first thought was for my daughter who was coming home from a shift at McDonald’s, but couldn’t get down the road because it had been cordoned off.
“She was waiting there for about an hour before the police eventually escorted her down the road.
“I heard a loud bang at around 11pm and was worried it might be gunfire, then I heard that same banging 15 minutes later.
“I moved here last year and thought it was a quiet neighbourhood, but I’m rethinking that after all this.”
VILLAGERS have said their communities are ‘still in shock’ after armed robbers targeted their shops.
Thugs left Alton’s Grove House post office empty-handed at 6.20pm on Tuesday after threatening staff and claiming to be carrying a firearm.
Twenty minutes later, they raided Co-op, in Tean, using knives and made off with a ‘small quantity of cash’.
Although very little was taken from the stores, villagers have told the Post and Times there is now a feeling of ‘insecurity’ in Alton and Tean.
Ryan John, who lives in a flat neighbouring the Tean Co-op, in High Street, described the raids as a ‘wake-up call’.
He said: “I came back from work and my partner was in the flat cooking tea.
“As I approached my drive, I saw lots of police vehicles carrying armed police pulling up.
“We had a look out of our window and saw more and more police cars arriving, along with an ambulance.
“To see all those vehicles was pretty scary as we had no idea what was going on.
“It was a massive shock given that it happened just next door.
“We’ve lived here since February and had always thought Tean was a quiet place, but this is a bit of a wake-up call.”
Lynn Phoenix, who runs the Bank House Bed and Breakfast, which is next door to the Alton post office, said villagers were ‘in shock’.
She said: “My husband went outside and saw a policeman who he knew, so he asked him in for a cup of tea.
“The officer said he was working and it was something quite serious at the post office.
“Our first thoughts were with Barry and Sheena, who run the post office, especially when paramedics turned up.
“I feel so sorry for them because they work so hard and are so vital to the village.
“They didn’t deserve this and I really hope it doesn’t put them off staying here.
“I thought it wasn’t a very clever time to attempt an armed robbery as traffic in Alton was congested from Towers traffic going home.
“It seems stupid to me but, then again, who knows the workings of a criminal mind?
“But I think we’ve always been a little bit complacent in this village.
“It’s a quiet, friendly place and we all get rattled when something like this happens on out doorsteps.
“We’re all in shock – this just doesn’t happen in Alton.
“It would be a shame if we had to change our way of life.
“If these men are found guilty, they deserve whatever they get.”
In Windsor Road, Uttoxeter, residents were left unable to access their street when police blocked it off while they negotiated with the suspects at a neighbouring Ash Close flat.
A Windsor Road pensioner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said: “I got a call from my neighbour, who said they thought it was a drugs raid.
“So I looked out of my window and saw a load of armed police on the lawn just in front of me.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes and officers offered very little explanation as to what was happening.”