SHOPPERS thought a security guard would be beaten to death in a vicious armed robbery outside an Otley supermarket.

Two masked men approached a security guard as he left the Safeway store in Westgate at 2.25pm on Monday and set about him with a baseball bat.

Eyewitnesses spoke of their horror as one robber continued to beat the guard as he lay on the ground.

Linda Brown, who had stopped to speak to her friend at the entrance to the store, says she feared for the man's life.

She said: "I thought they were going to kill the man. They hit him full force across the head. I can't believe that somebody could do that, keep on hitting the man when he was on the floor in broad daylight. The car park was full and there were people walking in and out and he just stood there hitting him."

Mrs Brown was the first to raise the alarm at the store, alerting staff in the cigarette kiosk just inside the store to telephone the police.

She said: "I shouted robbery as loud as I could. I said get the police they are beating up the security man. I just started shaking. I just didn't think at the time. It was just a reaction, I just shouted robbery.

"It was unbelievable. One minute we were standing there talking and the next I saw a man with a baseball bat. I turned away and when I looked back the man was swinging the bat as far round as he could and hitting the security man full whack on the head. If he hadn't of had the helmet on I don't know what would have happened."

Carol Sharp, who helped the security guard inside the store, said: "I had just gone into the store when I heard all this commotion and screaming but it was all over when I got there. I got the man inside and talked to him and tried to calm him down. I just asked him if he had any injuries until the ambulance came."

Mrs Sharp, who was also at the scene of another armed robbery at Otley's Midland Bank, last year, added: "He was very shocked. He was shaking like a leaf. It is a good job he was wearing his helmet because it could have been a lot worse. People were standing about watching. There were lots of men about. They could have pushed a trolley into him to knock him over, or done something."

One man, who is described as 6ft tall, thin, and wearing light blue jeans and a black bomber jacket, was wielding a 2ft baton and attacked the Securicor guard, hitting him repeatedly on the head as he lay on the ground.

A second robber, who was also wearing a full face balaclava, with two eyeholes, also approached the security guard brandishing a pair of bolt cutters.

It is thought that a third man, who was waiting in a stolen car, used a sledge hammer to smash open the cash box before returning to the car.

He is described as being of mixed race, tall, in his 20's, of medium build and wearing dark clothing.

The men made off from the scene with a considerable amount of cash in a stolen silver Vauxhall Cavalier, which was found abandoned moments later in nearby Ash Grove.

The security guard was taken to Leeds General Infirmary suffering from shock and minor injuries.

A spokeswoman for Safeway confirmed the incident took place but was unable to comment further.

DI Steve Payne, of Weetwood CID, said: "It was a vicious attack. It is always a serious attack when a security guard is injured, although in this case the injuries were minor. We are not linking this attack with any other armed robberies at this time."

Police are appealing for witnesses on 0113 2413459.

l A MAN was threatened with a knife by masked men and a substantial amount of cash was stolen in another attack on a security van.

A security guard was approached by two men as he pulled up in a cash in transit vehicle outside Kirk Lane Post Office, in Yeadon at 3.25pm on Thursday, last week.

One of the men, who were both wearing full face balaclavas, threatened the guard with a knife.

The second man then smashed the cash box with a sledge hammer and was able to steal a large sum of cash before the men made off in a stolen car.

The racing green coloured Rover 827, registration H640 OUK, which was stolen from Norwood Avenue, Burley-in Wharfedale between 6.30 and 10.10am on Monday, April 10, was later found abandoned in Swincar Avenue.

The first suspect is described as being between 5ft 5 and 5ft 6, of average build and wearing a balaclava with dark clothing.

The second is described as being 5ft 10 and of average build and was also wearing a balaclava with two eye holes and dark clothing.

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