Hero bystanders lock in axe-wielding man

By Amy McGillivray


Two quick-thinking bystanders barricaded a rampaging, axe-wielding man inside a Whangamata bank until police arrived.

A man walked into the BNZ on Port Rd about 10.10am yesterday with an axe and smashed a number of windows and the front counter.

Witness Dinelle Pye said two men, who were parked outside the bank, rummaged through their ute before tying the doors of the bank together with what looked like a shoelace or some string.

"The two guys tied the door so that no one else could get out," she said.

Ms Pye believed the "two brave guys" also pushed a desk and a brochure stand in front of the door in an attempt to make it harder for the offender to escape.

"Those guys were bloody brave," she said.

Thames-Coromandel CIB Detective Sergeant Martyn Hughes said the four staff members managed to escape before the men tied the doors shut. Three staff got out relatively quickly but one staff member remained inside a bit longer.

"At this point in time we do not believe the man made any threats toward this staff member who was able to escape before the arrival of police," he said.

Officers armed with guns arrived, untied the doors and arrested the man.

Ms Pye witnessed the rampage from her workplace.

Initially she thought the ruckus was the recycling being collected but soon realised the gravity of the situation.

"It sounded like someone smashing glass bottles into the bin," she said.

Ms Pye saw what was happening when she turned to investigate the source of the noise.

"He had a sledge-hammer or axe and he's just taken it out on everything in there," she said. "I shut my store doors straight away.

"The girls [at the bank] are absolutely just shaken up ... it's just absolutely horrible."

Mike Wright, of nearby Butcher's Apro, saw the attack taking place and called 111 from his store.

"The bloke walked in with what looked like a sledge-hammer, I'm told it was an axe. He started smashing windows from the inside out."

Mr Wright said the man then walked over to the counter and started to smash the desk and equipment behind it.

BNZ external relations manager Emily Davies praised the actions of the men who locked the attacker inside the store and described them as heroes.

"The offender caused a significant amount of damage. No staff or customers were targeted or injured," she said. "Our main concern is the health and welfare of our staff."

Ms Davies said no customers were in the store at the time.

Staff were shaken but uninjured and were receiving support to cope with the ordeal.

The store is likely to remain closed today but a mobile bank will be on site to allow customers access to banking facilities, she said.

Whangamata police Sergeant Vince Ranger said police had not yet established the motive behind the attack.

"Officers arrived to find a number of windows at the bank had been smashed and a counter damaged by a man armed with what was described as an axe.

"No one was injured in the attack and it does not appear that the offender's intent was to rob the premises. A 53-year-old local man was arrested at the scene without incident and he is being interviewed by our staff."

He said Victim Support volunteers were working to support bank staff.

- Hamilton News

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