A MASKED gunman broke into a house in Thingwall and threatened the occupants with a rifle.

Officers were called to Barnston Road just after midnight following reports an armed man had forced his way inside the property.

He confronted the people inside, a man and two women, before stealing the keys to a car.

The gunman went outside and appeared to try to move the car off the drive, but he eventually left the scene on-foot and empty-handed.

He was last seen heading towards the roundabout on Barnston Road.

Patrols carried-out an extensive search of the area helped by the police helicopter and officers with dogs.

The property has been examined by crime scene investigators and house-to-house inquiries have been carried out.

A woman in her 50s was taken to hospital as a precaution. A man also in his 50s, and another younger woman, were unhurt.

The gunman is in aged his 20s, he was wearing black clothing, jeans and white trainers and had his face covered with a scarf.

A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is continuing.

Detective Inspector Paul Parry of Wirral CID said: "This must have been a very frightening ordeal for the family involved, who were confronted in their own home in the early hours of the morning.

"Understandably, they have been left very distressed by what's happened and I want to take this opportunity to reassure people living in Thingwall that we are working extremely hard to locate and arrest the person responsible.

"I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area or people with any information about the incident, no matter how small, to get in touch with us".

Neighbourhood Inspector for Thingwall Brian Griffiths said: "High-visibility patrols are being stepped up in the area and will remain so over the coming days.

"Thankfully incidents such as this are rare in our community but we are not complacent and my officers will be out speaking to people to provide reassurance and support."

Anyone with information is urged to call detectives in Wirral CID, either on 0151 777 2265 or via the police non-emergency 101 number.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously either on 0800 555 111 or from their website here