Police are appealing for information to help find a man who committed an armed robbery at a Co-op in Brighton over the Christmas period while wearing a Santa hat.

CCTV footage of the armed robbery at a Saltdean branch of the supermarket on 20 December shows the suspect entering the shop on Lustrell Vale and threatening a female staff member with the knife before forcing her to the store office.

The woman suffered several broken ribs as a result of being manhandled by the suspect. He then grabbed another staff member and made him open the safe.

After taking more than £2,000 ($2,500) from the safe, the suspect ran out into School Lane and on to Chiltington Way. He was pursued by another staff member who heard him get into a car, believed to be a silver Ford Focus hatchback, which made off down Tremola Avenue towards the seafront.

Police are looking into whether the robbery was linked to a similar armed robbery at a Co-op shop in nearby London Road just four days previously.

The Bad Santa suspect is described as white, between 5' 9" and 5' 11", of stocky build and wearing black jogging bottoms, a black North Face hooded top, a Santa hat with printed Santa feet on the top, a black scarf covering his face apart from his eyes and black gloves. He spoke with an accent, believed to be Liverpudlian or northern.

Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme said: "This was a violent robbery which left the staff shaken and shocked. While I acknowledge the lack of facial detail in the picture will make it hard for the public to help, we are hoping by releasing the image that someone might remember seeing this man in the area looking suspicious or running away afterwards.

"It's possible you may recognise him from his build or the way he moves. We would also be keen to keen to hear from anyone who has details of the car used to escape."

Second Brighton Co-op robbery

The other armed robbery on London Road involve two men who spoke with Irish accents who stole £2,500 after threatening the members of staff with knives on 16 December.

The first man holding the 11" knife wore a black hooded jacket with the hood up, a black jacket over the top, black tracksuit bottoms, black boots and a black scarf over his face. The second man wore a black hooded top with the hood up, grey tracksuit bottoms and green Nike Air Max trainers.

Detective Constable Julian Harrison-Jones said: "This was an alarming and violent robbery with staff having a near foot-long knife brandished at them and being forced to co-operate with the men. Thankfully, they were unhurt, but shaken by their ordeal.

"We are keen to speak with anyone who may have been a witness or have any information that may assist in identifying these men."