A Thomas Cook branch in Manchester was raided by armed men who stole thousands of pounds from its foreign exchange desk last week.

Two masked men brandishing knives and a sledgehammer followed a security guard into the shop last Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police confirmed.

One intruder grabbed a staff member and demanded money before breaking into the foreign exchange area.

Only three staff were on duty in the large shop, which originally had a team of seven, because some had left following notification that the shop would close down in October.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “No employees or customers involved in the incident were hurt. As this is being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police we are unable to comment any further on the specifics of the incident.“

A former employee at the branch, who did not wish to be named, said: “They were down to three staff and one of them was heavily pregnant. If that shop was fully staffed this would never have happened.”

Thomas Cook confirmed that “on the day of the robbery four members of staff were due to be working in the store. However, on the morning of the robbery one staff member called in sick and therefore a member of staff from a local store was called in. This member of staff did not get to the store until after the robbery.“

The company added that the Central Retail Park store, Manchester was due to close the following week. Following the incident the decision was taken to close it early.