THIS was the terrifying moment that a gun-wielding masked man tried to rob a lone cashier in a North-East corner shop.

Seema Dhutti, 25, bravely fended the would-be robber off at the Darlington store she part-owns, and refused to hand over any cash.

She was back at work just hours after Saturday night’s horrifying incident at Seema News and Off-Licence, on the corner of North Road and Cumberland Street, and spoke to The Northern Echo about her ordeal.

Despite being visibly shaken, Mrs Dhutti said: “I was sitting behind the counter and one man was outside and I don’t know if he was waiting for something, but he looked through the door and saw I was alone.

“He came in and he showed me the gun and he said ‘f****** give me the money’.

The Northern Echo:

Seema News and Off-Licence in Darlington. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOWE

“I said ‘I have no money’ and he said to open the till, but I told him again that I had no money.

“I was so scared and shaken. I started to think if I pressed the panic alarm, that it might scare him off and I told him that the police were going to be here very soon.”

The attempted robbery, which took place at about 7.30pm, was caught on the store’s CCTV cameras and in shocking footage, the masked man waves the gun inches from Mrs Dhutti’s face.

She said: “He started smashing a glass case on the counter and the magazine fell out of the gun and he left. After that I was alone again and I didn’t know what I could do.”

Police confirmed last night that an investigation is being carried out by Darlington CID.

The Northern Echo:

The lone cashier pressed a panic alarm during the 30-second ordeal

A man, believed to be from Darlington, has been arrested in connection with the incident.

Detective Sergeant Sean Jackson is trying to trace a key witness, and appealed for the man to get in touch.

He said: “We have one male arrested, who we suspect of committing this offence, who is local to that area, and investigations are ongoing.

“We have had a male caller who rang us who witnessed this incident and he’s given us a detailed description of this offence.

“Unfortunately, this caller didn’t leave his contact details after he spoke to a call handler. We would urge him to call us back.

“This person doesn’t have to leave their details, but ideally I’d like them to speak to a detective or for them to come forward as a witness.”

Mrs Dhutti said that she had been comforted by a regular customer to the convenience store in the moments following the attempted armed robbery.

She said: “A regular that we know came in and he said I’d be okay now and at that time I called 999. We have people stealing and things, but never anything like this. It’s really scary.

“We’ve been here for four years and there’s never been anything this serious.”

Anyone with information on the incident can contact the police via non-emergency number 101, asking to speak to Darlington CID.