'Don't approach him' - that's the warning from police about a gunman who is behind two robberies across the New Forest.

Asked what people should do if they were confronted by the robber, Chief Insp Rowinson said: “Do whatever you can to defer him without being violent.

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

Now, officers from Hampshire police have joined forces with British Transport Police amid fears that he could strike again.

Senior officers say the local community has a vital role to play in bringing the gunman to justice.

He is thought to know the area well and could live locally, raising hopes that someone will recognise his description and alert detectives.

The scale of the hunt was revealed yesterday when police met residents to update them on the latest developments.

The head of New Forest police, Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson, declined to say how many officers were involved but said: “We are doing everything we can to catch this man.

“Every angle is being looked at and the amount of resources going into this investigation is quite exhaustive.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, two men from Lymington and New Milton were arrested last Sunday but have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Police urged the community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious sightings.

Detective Inspector Ellie Hurd said: “We believe it’s someone acting in isolation.

Two people have been arrested – and that’s an indication that not everyone detained turns out to be a suspect.

“Until we reach the point at which someone is charged, we don’t want to miss any opportunities.”

The first robbery happened at Brockenhurst railway station on December 5, when a commuter parking his car was forced to drive to a nearby cashpoint and withdraw what police describe as a “large” sum of money.

The gunman struck again last Friday, targeting a house in Rookes Lane, Lymington. He pointed a weapon at an elderly woman emerging from the property and forced her back into the house where her husband, in his seventies, suffered a minor head injury in a struggle.

After grabbing £100 the robber stole the couple’s car, forcing the woman to go with him as he drove around Lymington demanding more money then drove her home 15 minutes later, leaving her physically unhurt but deeply distressed.

About 30 residents attended yesterday’s meeting at Lymington town hall.

Asked if the gunman was likely to strike again, Chief Insp Rowlinson said: “He might be wandering around, trying to grab an opportunity. My priority is to catch this person before he does reoffend.”

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