A TERRIFYING armed robbery saw an Accrington barman "beaten black and blue" and a female customer taken to hospital after being attacked by masked thugs.
Three robbers, believed to be wielding baseball bats and carrying knives, burst into the Whitakers Arms pub in Burnley Road after closing time last Friday morning.
They assaulted the 48-year-old barman, who lives at the pub, and demanded money before stealing two tills containing hundreds of pounds in takings.
The dad-of-three, who recently became a grandfather, required six stitches in the mouth and it is feared he may have sustained permanent facial nerve damage.
During the 1.40am ordeal the raiders also threatened and assaulted two women customers and stole a handbag containing personal items.
Both sustained minor bruising and one was taken to hospital but released later that day.
One of the women, a 50-year-old mum of two who drinks regularly at the pub, said: "Suddenly there were two masked guys just standing at the back of me.
"One of them whacked me in the ribs with a bat, jumped on my back, threw a coat over my head and said: ‘If you move I will stab you’.
"He was asking me for the keys to the safe and was asking if I was the landlady.
"Your natural reaction is to retaliate and protect yourself and I did think to get up, but then I just thought lie still and you’ll be okay.
"But I suppose I did wonder if he was going to stab me anyway, such was the violence.
"I could hear the thud of the bat as they were beating the barman up and smashing the glasses. I could hear him putting up resistance but they hit him a lot."
The attack could have been far worse had it not been for the quick thinking of a third customer, who alerted the police from her mobile phone after hiding in the toilets.
The barman, who asked not to be named, is yet to return to work and will find out next week if he needs surgery.
Landlady Maria Hindle said: "He came back from hospital at 9 o’clock on Friday morning and I thought it had been raining because blood was still dripping out of his shirt. He is black and blue.
"There was so much blood behind the bar – I’ve never seen so much. The women’s injuries were not as bad but they were severely traumatised."
She thanked the police and customers for all their support and goodwill messages following the robbery.
Detective Inspector Steve Dowson said: "It was a very violent and traumatic incident for those people.
"It was violence for the sake of violence. It was due to the actions of one of the people present that the police arrived promptly and it’s down to her that more serious injuries were averted."
An investigation is underway and police are appealing to anyone who saw what happened or who has any information to contact them. Police believe the robbers made off in a black VW Golf, 54 reg, using false plates stolen from the Greater Manchester area.
DI Dowson added: "We are following up certain other incidents believed to involve the vehicle later that morning."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Accrington CID on 353741 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.