BRAVE customers grappled with an armed robber after he threatened their local newsagent with a knife.

A thug pulled a kitchen knife on Pramila Patel at Great Berry Mini Market in Nightingales, Langdon Hills after going to pay for a chocolate bar. The knifeman demanded money from the till, but plucky Mrs Patel refused.

As he fled he was grabbed by two customers on the way in, but Mrs Patel, fearing for their safety, called for them to release him.

Police arrived within 10 minutes and scoured the area, but could not find the robber.

Mrs Patel, who has run the shop with her husband for 19 years, said the incident at about 8am last Friday had left her shaken.

She said: “I was organising the cards when a man walked in. I was watching him out of the corner of my eye because he seemed to be taking a long time.

“I thought something was a bit strange so I went back to stand behind the till.

“He eventually picked up the chocolate bar and and I asked him for 20p.

“He threw the money at me and it bounced off the counter, on to the floor. He told me to bend down and pick it up, but I never do that when I am serving on my own, so I told him I would get it later.

“The next thing he pulled this kitchen knife from his coat and pointed it at me.

“He said: ‘give me the money’. I said, ‘It’s 8 o’ clock, I don’t have any money at this time of the morning’.

“Then he made a run for the door, but there were customers coming in and they stopped him.

“I called to them to let him go, I didn’t say he had a knife, but they understood something was wrong.

“I didn’t want them to be hurt.”

Mrs Patel hit her panic alarm and the police arrived minutes later.

The man wore a hat and had a scarf pulled up over the bottom half of his face, so that just his eyes were visible.

He was about 5ft five ins tall and aged between 21 and 40.

Mrs Patel added: “We have been here 19 years, luckily this is only the second incident of this kind.

“It’s worrying, you wonder, what will happen next and if you will be safe’. Life is getting tougher and tougher.”

Police are appealing for anyone with information about the incident to call detectives at Basildon police station on 101.