A MAN wearing a skeleton mask and brandishing a two-hand axe robbed a security guard.

Police said the robber struck at Whitworth’s Co-operative supermarket in Thorneylea as the 40-year-old guard collected a cash box from the store.

Officers said the attacker left the scene with a second offender and the cash box in a stolen red Peugeot 307 at 8.30am on Saturday.

They were spotted by a passer-by running down a footpath, known locally as the old railway line, which runs alongside the River Spodden.

The men are thought to have tried to open the cash box in the Healey Dell area and to have activated the security dye inside.

Police believe the money has been contaminated with the dye and the men may have it on their clothing.

Both thieves are white, clean shaven, aged in their 20s and of medium build with shaved heads. They were wearing blue hooded-style jumpers.

The vehicle and axe, used to open the cashbox, was recovered by police, but not the money.

Police said the thieves then continued to run into Dell Road, across Shawclough Road on to Paton Street, Foxglove Court and eventually Bassett Way where they were last seen.

Det Sgt Charlie Haynes, of Lancashire Police’s Eastern Division CID, said: “I am keen to speak with anyone who can provide us with any information about who these men are. We have recovered a number of items which we are forensically examining along with the abandoned vehicle, which we know was previously stolen from the Middleton area of Manchester.

“The security guard who has endured this ordeal is a family man and has been left extremely shaken and distressed by this attack.”

Information can be given to members of the CID on 01282 472 518 or anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.