Armed robbers struck at four shops in less than an hour, stealing cash and cigarettes as they threatened staff during a trail of terror.

In two of the Saturday night attacks, workers said the men, whose faces were covered, carried tools.

The first robbery was at the Co-op at The Workshop, Greenside Lane, Cullingworth, at 8.39pm, where staff told police the men were armed with a hammer.

Eleven minutes later the Co-op in Station Road, Oxenhope, was targeted and staff hit the panic alarm to alert officers.

At 9.25pm, McColls in Highroad Well Lane, Halifax, was robbed and a hammer was again reported to have been used.

Five minutes later, Sainsbury’s Local in Park Drive, Halifax, was the final shop hit.

Police are linking the incidents and say the same description was given for each crime – two men wearing balaclavas and speaking with local accents.

West Yorkshire Police duty inspector Carlton Young said: “They are linked. We believe the same people have travelled between the shops.

“They’ve done four very quickly – they obviously planned where they were going.”

Staff at the Oxenhope Co-op were tight-lipped yesterday and the manager said she was unable to talk about the incident.

Ian Stoney, who lives next door to the shop, said he had not heard anything when the robbery happened the previous night.

But he recalled a ram-raid at the store in 2008 when a cash machine was ripped from the wall.

He said: “I was woken up in the middle of the night with a grating sound – it was someone ripping the roller shutters.”

Another man, who did not want to be named, said: “I heard it was two guys who went in in balaclavas and armed with hammers. Apparently they got away with money and cigarettes.

“It sounds like they threatened staff as well, which must have been quite terrifying.”

On Wednesday the Co-op in Beacon Road, Wibsey, was robbed at about 7pm by a man armed with a knife. He demanded staff open tills before jumping over the counter and stealing cash and cigarettes.

Detective Inspector Stuart Lyons, of Bradford CID, said that robbery could be linked to one the previous week in Huddersfield Road, Bradford.

Insp Young said police would look for any links between those robberies and the ones committed on Saturday.

No arrests have been made following Saturday’s spree, which no-one was injured in.