A NEWSAGENT was last night in hospital after armed robbers targeted his Littlemore store.
Two masked men wielding a knife and a hammer threatened Vijaya Bandara Karunaratne, known locally as Karu, who runs Littlemore News. Police said the shopkeeper, who is also a Littlemore Parish councillor, suffered arm and knee injuries during the robbery which ended with the thieves fleeing on bikes along Cowley Road at around 12.30pm carrying the cash register with them.
Abdul Ghaffar, 49, who owns the nearby Littlemore Minimarket in Cowley Road, said as soon as he heard he went to the shop and saw his friend Karu sitting on the steps outside with blood coming from his arm.
He said: “People were trying to stop the bleeding. He’s a very noble man and has worked there a long time but nothing like this has happened before.”
Gill Sanders, Oxford City Council member for Littlemore, said: “I know Karu, he would have fought off whoever it was to make sure they didn’t take anything they shouldn’t have.”
She said the father-of-two from Sri Lanka had worked behind the counter of the shop for about 10 years. “He really is a nice, family man, and a gentle person.
“What happened to him is really sad and unfortunate.”
Police cordoned off the scene yesterday and last night appealed for information to help catch the robbers responsible.
Barber Hamid Pani, of Unisex Barbers, next door to the shop, said he called the police after he saw the robbery.
He said: “I heard shouting and screaming. I went outside and saw two men inside the shop. One of them was up on the counter and one of them grabbed the till. It was terrible.”
He described the robbers as young white men in their early 20s, and said one was wearing a silver jacket.
Peter Gergey, 24, who lives behind the shop, heard the commotion. He said: “I came out to do something but I slammed the door when I saw the knife because it was quite a large knife.”
He said he later saw the shopkeeper fall down the short set of steps outside the store.
Police said the shopkeeper was hurt durig the robbery butrefusedto say what had happened. They the shopkeeper he was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital by ambulance and his injury was not thought to be serious or life-threatening.
Long Lane resident Alec McNiffe, 80, said: “I am not very happy about this. It is too close to home.” He said the Sri Lankan shopkeeper was a “lovely man”. Littlemore Parish Council chairwoman Anne Mogridge added: “He is a very popular guy and it is a well-used shop. I am really sad to hear about it.”
A police helicopter was used in an attempt to track the suspects after the robbery.
Police described one robber as white, of a medium build, and shorter than 5ft 9in. He was wearing a dark brown hooded top.
The other was white, slim, and taller than 5ft 9in.
Investigating officer Det Sgt Mike West last night said: “The investigation is in the early stages and rapidly progressing. At this time it is focussed on locating the offenders.
“The incident happened during the daytime in a busy location and we have had several witnesses come forward already. I would encourage anyone with information that can assist our investigation to come forward.”
Call 101 with information.