AN investigation has been launched after publicans in Rossendale were forced to hand over their night's takings at gunpoint.

Detectives say that the couple, believed to be middle-aged, were in a snug at the Hare and Hounds, in Newchurch Road, Stacksteads, when a brick was thrown through a window.

The landlord was hit on the head by the missile and two men threatened the couple with what is believed to have been a small handgun.

After demands were made the takings, totalling around £185 and kept in a blue cloth bag, were handed over.

The armed robbers are then believed to have fled – but eyewitnesses are being sought to establish how they escaped.

It is believed that their faces were covered, possibly with balaclava or scarves, and it is thought that one of them was wearing a light-coloured hooded top.

Det Insp Jim Elston, from East CID, said that the couple were in a small room at the rear of the premises, at the corner of Four Lane Ends, when the incident occurred at around 1.30am on Tuesday.

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He added: “I am unsure if this was a targeted attack but its seems likely given that the takings were being counted at the time.

"The landlord has sustained a deep cut to his head requiring stitches.

“I am thankful his injury was not more serious given he was struck by a brick. Both were extremely shaken following this reckless attack’."

He later confirmed that the victim was allowed home after being treated at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. Mr Elston said: "I would appeal to anyone in the Bacup area who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the time before the attack or shortly after, or indeed anyone who has any information about those responsible, to get in contact with us.”