Customers of a service station helped to detain a robber who is believed to have started a fire as a diversionary tactic.

The incident at the Warren Service Station in Easington Road, Hartlepool, began when staff were alerted to a fire on the site at about 6.50pm on Tuesday November 4.

While a member of staff and customers tackled the fire a man inside the shop attempted to take money from the till, but another member of staff and a customer struggled with him and stopped him.

Other customers then helped to detain the man until police and fire fighters arrived.

A spokesman for Shell, which owns the service station, said: “Shell is aware of an incident at Shell Warren and is co-operating with the police in its enquiries. Shell Warren has reopened and is serving customers.”

A 42-year-old man has now been charged with arson with intent to endanger life, robbery and theft following the incident. He has been bailed to attend court later this month.