FIVE bank employees were threatened with a pistol in the first raid on the bank in its 20-year history.

The armed robber pointed the 6in barrelled gun at staff members at the Co-op in Hythe Street, Dartford, before stealing £2,900.

He entered the branch at 12.20pm and pointed his pistol at the face of a female cashier before demanding the contents of her till.

She gave him the notes which he pushed into an orange, canvas Sainsbury's bag before swinging his gun in the direction of two male and two female cashiers also behind the counter.

He demanded money from their tills but when staff said they did not have keys he fled the bank towards the town centre.

The branch, which opened more than 20 years ago and has never been robbed before, had only one customer at the time of the raid.

Detective Constable Steve Dingwall, in charge of the investigation, said: "When he realised he would not get any more cash he grabbed the bag and told them to give it five minutes before they raised the alarm.

"He made off towards the town centre but we do not know which way he went as the cameras were pointing in the wrong direction."

There have been two other armed robberies in the borough within the last two months.

On April 23 an armed raider stole £2,000 from the Woolwich Building Society at Bluewater Shopping Centre. Then on May 5 a gunman raided Coral bookmakers, in Princes Road, Dartford, escaping with an estimated £4,000.

Det Const Dingwall continued: "There are distinct similarities with the robbery at Bluewater, we cannot rule out both crimes are related."

Police also want to talk to a woman seen in the branch seconds before the attack and the Det Const added: "The woman popped her head round the door and walked back out almost as if she was checking to see who was in there."

A Co-op spokesman said: "None of our staff or customers within the branch at the time suffered any physical harm, but full support and counselling is being provided to all staff involved in this traumatic incident."

Anyone with information about the June 2 incident should Det Const Dingwall on 01622 690690.