British detectives have released CCTV footage that shows the extraordinary lengths a thief went to in order to rob a post office in Oldham, northwest England.

In what is believed to have been an act of desperation on Christmas Eve, the thief targeted the Watchcote Post Office in the morning.

He went into the post office and initially demanded money from the staff working behind the counter.

He made efforts to open a secure door and then picked up a National Lottery ticket stand and flung it towards the glass screen in an attempt to shatter the glass and get behind the counter.

After failing to smash the screen, the thief forcibly removed the ceiling tiles and climbed through the gap in the ceiling into the secure area, where he stole some cash.

Police said it was "hundreds of pounds" but did not give the exact figure.

He is described as being white, of a pale complexion, about 1.83m (6'0) tall, of slim build and in his 20s.

Officers believe the man was pacing about outside the post office prior to the robbery and made several comments about his desperate state of mind, including comments about not being able to buy Christmas presents for children and something else along the lines of "I have no money, may as well do the post office".

Detective Constable Tony Anwas said: "This CCTV paints perfectly the picture of just how desperate this man was to get his hands on some cash.

"I believe he has made a spur of the moment decision to rob the post office, and has executed his plan in a rushed and ham-fisted manner."

Police are appealing for witnesses or anyone who recognises the man to come forward.