A POSTMASTER has described a violent armed robbery by masked men with hammers as ‘terrifying’.

Two men entered Ushaw Moor Post Office and used hammers to repeatedly hit the fortress glass which divided the counter from the rest of the shop.

After smashing the glass and hitting the postmaster in the process, the robbers grabbed £745 in cash from the counter and ran off, leaving one of the hammers at the scene.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, the postmaster said: “I have been the postmaster of Ushaw Moor Post Office for 17 years and have never experienced an incident like this in all of this period.

“It was a terrifying experience. It was totally ferocious and I felt like it was never going to stop.

“During the incident, I was struck on my left hand which, although it hurt, was nothing more than a glancing blow.

“The person using the cosh was using it with such force and speed and without any care or consideration towards myself that it was only by luck that I was not more seriously hurt.”

Comprehensive forensic work was carried out on the hammer, and traces of DNA belonging to three men were found, one of which was Reece Smith.

The following day, a Citroen Saxo used by the offenders to make their getaway was found abandoned in nearby Langley Moor.

A sledgehammer and glove recovered from the rear of the vehicle were forensically examined, which found tiny fragments of glass embedded in the hammer, proving it had been used in forceful contact with one or more of the Post Office windows.

Forensic tests on the glove also found traces of DNA matching Smith, with a one in a billion chance the DNA was from someone other than him.

The incident was on the morning of December 15, 2016, and Smith was arrested on three days later along with another man.

Both denied the offence.

Following an extensive police investigation, Smith was later charged with robbery, which he initially denied but changed his plea to guilty.

The 24-year-old, of Sunderland, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday where he was jailed for a total of seven and a half years for the Ushaw Moor robbery and a further robbery in the Northumbria police area.

Detective Constable Nigel Dowd, from Durham Constabulary, said: “This was a terrifying incident for not only the postmaster who was confronted by the armed robbers, but also his wife who witnessed the attack on her husband and their livelihood.

“The investigation has been long and incredibly complex, with the key evidence being provided by a number of forensic submissions.

“During the course of the investigation, we also spoke to numerous witnesses and recovered CCTV from both the Durham area and South Shields, where the suspects used the stolen money to buy a car.

“I would like to thank all of our witnesses who have cooperated fully with our enquiry, in particular the victims, who have shown patience and humility throughout the investigation.

“I hope today’s sentence helps them to feel reassured that Smith is now off the streets and behind bars and can do them no more harm.”