Police are hunting for a pair of armed robbers who fled with a large sum of money after holding up a security van collecting cash from a Northland supermarket.
The apparently planned robbery occurred just before lunchtime yesterday at Kaikohe New World.
It is thought the offenders pointed a long-barrelled firearm at security company staff and demanded the cash box. The passenger opened the door and stepped partly out of the car as he brandished the gun. Police would not say exactly how much was taken but it was a significant sum.
Detective Sergeant Chris Fouhy appealed to anyone who was in the New World car park at the time and saw the robbery or getaway vehicle to call him at the Kaikohe station. Police had already spoken to a number of witnesses.
The getaway car, a silver Nissan Primera, registration AQP901, was stolen in Paihia on Thursday night. It was last seen turning left out of the car park onto Memorial Ave.
Police also wanted to hear from anyone who saw one of the men get out of the car on nearby Recreation Rd and run off. Both offenders were disguised with hoodies or balaclavas.
Mr Fouhy said he was disturbed by the use of a firearm in the middle of town while many people were doing their shopping.
''The risk to the public is huge, any time a firearm is involved. This was at a busy time of day in a car park that's generally full.''
Police put up cordons at either end of Kaikohe and on Mangakahia Rd, with officers sent from as far away as Dargaville to help search for the offenders. Police also blocked off Rangimahana Rd just west of Kaikohe.
''We're swamping the area with all the resources we have,'' he said.
''We want people to treat these guys as dangerous. They should not be approached.''
Mr Fouhy urged people to call the Kaikohe station on (09) 405 2960, him directly on (09) 405 2966, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 with any information. People would be talking about the robbery and the offenders were likely to spend unusual sums of money, he said.
He expected the car would be found burnt out somewhere in the Kaikohe area.
The company which owns the van, Security North Ltd, operates a ''cash-in-transit'' service from Bream Bay to Kaitaia. Its website states that staff are trained in armed robbery and cash handling procedures. The company also replenishes and services ATMs.
Yesterday's armed robbery was just the latest in a spate around Northland in recent weeks. Most have occurred in Whangarei with the last one in Kaikohe at The Shed Liquor Centre, a stone's throw from New World, on September 7. In that case a stolen BB gun revolver was used and $400 was taken.
Eighteen-year-old Joyle Teaurere was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery in relation to The Shed robbery, thanks to CCTV footage, information from the public and a crime-fighting Facebook page. Police are still looking for his accomplice.
The maximum penalty for armed robbery is 14 years jail.