The owner of this hat could hold the key to a police investigation into an attempted armed robbery in north Watford.

Police have today (Wednesday) launched an appeal for the owner to come forward, after it was found lying on the pavement outside Ansell betting shop, which is opposite Kays newsagents in St Albans Road.

A gunman had demanded money from a married couple working in the newsagents at about 7.05am on Thursday, December 30.

He then shot the man before running from the scene empty handed.

The victim, 70, underwent a seven hour life-saving operation to remove the bullet from his bowel and is still recovering in hospital.

The armed robber is described as a white man, aged in his late teens to early 20s. He was of a slim build with a thin face and was between 5ft 6ins and 5ft 8ins talls.

He was wearing a woolly hat, a black or dark blue jumper and black trousers.

He also had a cream scarf covering his face from the bridge of his nose downwards.

The hat found at the scene is black with thin white horizontal stripes.

Detective Inspector Tim Redfearn, from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said: “We know members of the public will hold the key to tracing the person responsible.

“Thankfully the victim is making a recovery from his injuries but this could have proved fatal. I would like to appeal to the better nature of anyone who knows who did this to do the right thing and contact police confidentially or Crimestoppers anonymously.

“At this stage it is not clear whether the hat has a direct link to the investigation or not and it is important we trace the owner. If this belongs to you, or if you know who it might belong to please contact police. Your information could prove absolutely vital.”

DI Redfearn also called for a man seen in the area not long after the shooting to come forward.

He was seen running in front of a bus at about 7.20am and is described as a white man aged between 20 and 30.

He is believed to be 6ft tall, of average build and was wearing a padded jacket.

DI Redfearn said: “At this stage we do not believe this man was involved in the incident but it is important we trace him and any further witnesses.”

Anyone with information should telephone the incident room directly on 01707 355959. Alternatively telephone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.