ARMED robbers have raided a bookmakers in Colchester.

A gunman and knife-wielding robber threatened staff at the Coral bookmakers at The Willows shopping precinct.

Armed police and a helicopter were called in to try and track them down but without success.

Police have released CCTV footage of the criminals and are urging anyone with information to contact them as soon as possible.

The incident took place at about 8.35pm yesterday.

They escaped with £180 in cash.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: "One of the men was armed with a knife and the other was carrying what appeared to be a handgun wrapped in a plastic bag."

Det Sgt Dan Jeffries said: "We want to hear from anyone who might have seen the two men hanging around before the robbery or running off a few minutes later.

"The thieves were both in their late teens or early 20s and of average height and build.

"Both were wearing scarves over their faces.

"One was wearing light-coloured zip-up hooded top and dark trousers and the other was in a dark hooded top and dark trousers.

"One of them was carrying an orange plastic bag.

"Although the men were wearing scarves in the betting shop we hope that they can be traced from the descriptions and CCTV image.”

Anyone with information should contact Det Sgt Jeffries or his colleagues at Colchester CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.