Death after pharmacy struggle 'self defence'

By Alanah Eriksen, Alanah May Eriksen

Police at the scene at Gillards Pharmacy on New North Rd, Mt Albert. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Police at the scene at Gillards Pharmacy on New North Rd, Mt Albert. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A 68-year-old Auckland pharmacist at the centre of a police investigation into the death of an intruder in his store has been through a "very, very traumatic" ordeal, his family said last night.

The Herald understands pharmacist Grant Gillard - who was confronted by the burglar in his shop early yesterday - struggled with the man and was holding him down before he went into cardiac arrest.

Police tried to revive the middle-aged man - who has not been identified - but he died on the floor of the Mt Albert pharmacy.

Public support was mounting last night for Mr Gillard, who was back at his Remuera home after being questioned by police for most of the day. No charges have been laid.

His lawyer, Richard Earwaker, said his client had been given medical advice to rest.

"He's been through a very frightening ordeal and it's been rough for him. He's 68 so this has been very stressful ... It's been horrific for him, he's had some medical help."

Asked if Mr Gillard knew the intruder, Mr Earwaker said: "The short answer is no. It was just a burglary, he didn't know him."

Mr Gillard has run the Gillard Pharmacy on New North Rd with his wife Vera since 1969.

Mr Earwaker said he was well-respected among retailers and in the community and had been receiving a stream of calls and messages of support from friends and the public.

He would not comment on possible charges, but another criminal lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, said: "I would've thought that this was obviously self-defence and I think any jury would see that."

Mr Gillard returned to his home about 7pm yesterday and a man at the door, believed to be his son, said: "It has been a very, very traumatic time for the family".

Police were last night trying to establish who the intruder was, as he was not carrying identification.

The drama started when a security guard phoned Mr Gillard about 4.30am yesterday, after the shop's alarm went off.

When the pharmacist arrived at the store, the pair searched the premises for about 10 minutes but did not find anyone.

The guard left and Mr Gillard started to lock up when the intruder confronted him.

A scuffle ensued and at some point Mr Gillard phoned his wife to call the police.

Police arrived about four minutes later and officers performed CPR on the intruder before paramedics arrived.

The man was pronounced dead shortly after 6am.

Police were yesterday concentrating on a large hole in the back of the store which looked to be the entry point.

Inspector Jim Wilson said no weapon was found at the scene but that wasn't to say one hadn't been used.

A steady stream of friends and neighbours arrived at the house.

West Auckland pharmacist Warren Flaunty said the profession was becoming increasingly dangerous because of people seeking codeine and pseudoephedrine - ingredients in cough and cold medicines - to make P.

"Every time my alarm goes off, my wife dreads when I will call her to tell her what's happened this time," Mr Flaunty said.

Mr Flaunty, who has run his pharmacy for about 20 years, said he had about two robberies each year. In one, a man came into the store with a gun, threatening staff, before demanding pseudoephedrine.

"I lost two staff because of that. They couldn't handle it any more. [The danger] is something that goes through your mind all the time."

Don McBeth of Gail Sanders Travel, near Mr Gillard's pharmacy, found it hard to believe he would have hurt anyone but if he did, they would have deserved it.

"He wasn't aggressive at all. The most he would have done is say 'f*** off'. I can't even imagine him saying that."

Mr McBeth said the area had been plagued over the past couple of years by crime, including gang violence, shop hold-ups and daylight thefts of cars.

Gilbert Road Discount Liquor store owner Virender Singh defended his shop against five drunken teenagers with a hockey stick in September 2008. He faced charges which were later dropped.

"I'm still where I was in 2008, I'm still of the same position, if something happens to me similar, I'll do what I have done previously.

"He protected his property, his shop, he hasn't done anything wrong. That is my opinion ... that's why shopkeepers are standing up, otherwise these people will keep doing what they do."

- NZ Herald

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