Scott Yeoman is a NZ Herald reporter

Liquor store robbed twice in one year

The frustrated owner of an Auckland liquor store is once again counting his losses after his shop was robbed for the second time in less than a year yesterday.

Torbay Liquor Centre on Beach Rd on the North Shore was broken into at about 4am on Wednesday morning and between $4000 and $6000 worth of goods were stolen.

The co-owner and head manager of the shop, John Lee, said bottles of spirits accounted for about $2000 and the rest was cigarettes. "The cigarettes - they are much, much lighter and compact ... but they cost much more than all the spirits."

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The liquor store, which the 31-year-old co-owns with his dad, was also robbed in April last year. Five or six bottles of spirits were taken and a lot of debris and damage was left behind when the shop was ram-raided by a car, but no one was found or charged, Mr Lee said.

Yesterday, five offenders arrived at his shop in two cars and shattered the front window by throwing an object at it, he said.

CCTV footage supplied to the Herald shows three offenders getting to work on the security mesh after one of them smashes the window.

Mr Lee said after bending the mesh screen in half, the three crawled inside. They then managed to disable the CCTV system, he said.

Having spoken to a witness who saw the entire robbery unfold, Mr Lee said the offenders took turns in throwing bottles one by one to the two others standing outside, who were catching them and transferring the stolen goods into the cars.

The witness told Mr Lee it all happened in the space of five to eight minutes.

Mr Lee said last April's incident was the first break-in in the 15 years his family had owned the liquor store. Now they have had two in less than a year.

He said they did everything they could to avoid it happening again after the first incident.
They installed a security rail in front of the door to stop thieves from ram-raiding, upgraded the strength level of the shop's glass, and installed an aluminium mesh screen.

"So we did as much as we could to prevent anything like this happening, but ... they always find a way to get inside the store."

Mr Lee said it was a "pain and hassle" to clean up and fix the damage left behind again and he was "gutted".

He said Torbay is "really quite peaceful" and a very small community with nice locals.
"And they don't expect anything like this to happen."

Members of the community had visited Mr Lee and his family since the robbery to see how they were doing. He said the locals were "shocked" to see this kind of thing happening in their area.

Mr Lee said the last time he heard from police about the April 2015 robbery was about May last year. He said they told him the case had gone cold. He hoped the same didn't happen with this robbery.

"I was talking to one of the police officers that attended the store yesterday when I came to see the damage early in the morning and the police officer said they actually found one of the suspects running away at the Oteha Valley Rd off-ramp to the motorway - they were heading to the city side."

Mr Lee said he was told that police pursued the suspect but had to abandon the chase because the offender was driving too fast.

"He [the officer] said he radioed one of the officers that was patrolling the motorway and he gave another chase. But these culprits were speeding so fast again they had to pull off again and after that they just lost sign of him."

Mr Lee said he hoped the offenders didn't come back and that it would be nice if the police caught them and put them behind bars. He said it would be a relief for the community.

Waitemata police spokeswoman Beth Bates said the investigation into the story was ongoing. "It is the second one in just over a year but we can't say at this stage whether the two are believed to be linked," she said.

- NZ Herald

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