HAMPSHIRE police have tonight defended claims that they took too long to respond to a 999 call from a couple held at gunpoint in their home.

Allegations had been made this afternoon by the couple at the centre of the terrifying ordeal that they were unhappy with how long it took for officers to arrive at the scene.

As reported, the robber had gone into their Lymington home last Friday brandishing the weapon, before kidnapping the woman in her own car.

He then drove her round the town for 15 minutes making demands for cash, before changing his mind and driving her home again.

When the car returned police were not at the scene.

Tonight, Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson, leading the hunt for the gunman, who is also said to be responsible for a hold-up at Brockenhurst ten days earlier, said response times were appropriate.

He told the Daily Echo he had spoken with the victim and once he had explained the situation and the course of action being taken by police following the emergency calls, she was happy.

Police said they had made tracking down the car and the woman's safety their priority when they had received the first 999 call.

Officers had been dispatched within three minutes of the emergency call being made, the Daily Echo understands.

The first armed robbery happened at Brockenhurst railway station ten days earlier,  when a man was ordered to drive his Porsche to a bank cashpoint machine.

In the latest attack, the gunman went into the couple’s Rookes Lane home and demanded cash, before taking the Peugeot 207 from the driveway and forcing the woman inside.

The gunman eventually gave up and returned her home, later abandoning the car in nearby Newenham Road.

Police in the New Forest today vowed to do everything in their power to catch an armed robber before he strikes again.

Senior officers met Forest residents today to update them on the operation to catch the person responsible.

Two men have been arrested and released on bail, but police stressed that no-one had been charged in connection with the incidents. They urged the community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious sightings immediately.

The head of New Forest police, Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson, said: “This man may be wandering around, trying to grab an opportunity.

“My policing priority is to catch this person before he does re-offend.”

Chief Insp Rowlinson urged people not to approach anyone fitting the description of the wanted man.

He added: “People under pressure do tend to get quite agitated. I don't anyone taking the law into their own hands.”

Asked what residents should do if they were confronted by the gunman he said: “Do whatever you can to defer him without being violent.

“Don't make threats, buy some time and see if you can raise the alarm. His intention is to get money, not to cause harm.”

The gunman is described as aged 35-55 and of medium build. His clothes include a dark beanie hat, a red tartan scarf, dark trousers and a high-visibility jacket.