A man reportedly put a fake gun to a 12-year-old’s chest in one of five attempted robberies last night – sparking a police manhunt.

The suspect committed two robberies and two attempted robberies near Woodside Stadium, Watford, at around 6.20pm yesterday (December 5), Herts Police confirmed this evening.

Another victim was then targeted at around 9.45pm in Katherine Place, Abbots Langley, which involved them being forced to drive to an ATM and withdraw cash. Officers believe he had an imitation firearm which has been seized from the scene.

No one has been arrested.

In one of the incidents, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly walking home alone by the tracks behind Woodside Leisure Centre, when she looked up from her phone and saw the man, her mother told the Watford Observer.

She said he “held a black pistol-type gun to her chest and said ‘give me what you’ve got’. She handed her iPhone over and then he said ‘you better get running that way’, or something similar.

“She saw a man nearby sitting in his car so she knocked on his window and told him what happened, so he let her in his car to make the 999 call.”

The mum said police then brought her home and said “that within minutes five people had been robbed at gunpoint in that area”.

She described the suspect as a white man, around 5ft 11ins, who was wearing all black including a long Zavetti Canada coat with a fluffy hood, black balaclava and black gloves. Police added he is thought to be in his 20s.

During the Watford robberies, an iPhone 11 was taken from one victim, while an iPhone 13, black JABRRA headphones, a Hollister jacket and Nike trainers were stolen from another.

The 12-year-old’s mum added: “I feel sick to my stomach knowing my child had been through a traumatic experience like that but I’m glad her and the other people this happened to weren’t hurt.

“It's one of them things that you think will never happen to you.

“As soon as the police left after taking her statement she just burst into tears and kept saying how scared she was. I hope it's not too mentally traumatic for her either.”

Residents last night reported seeing armed police searching Ganders Ash, near Garston, with a helicopter flying overhead. One local also claimed to have been told to stay indoors as officers searched their garden.

Detective Sergeant Ayodeji Afolabi, who is investigating, urged witnesses and anyone who saw suspicious behaviour in the area between 6pm and 6.30pm to contact police.

Information can be reported by emailing ayodeji.afolabi@herts.police.uk