Four young women have been arrested for the aggravated robbery of a Paihia dairy thanks to an alert local who noticed a suspicious car while he was having "a few quiet ones" after work.
About 8pm Wednesday last week three women entered the Rainbow Superette on Marsden Rd and threatened the shopkeeper with a hammer, police say.
They fled with cigarettes and cash.
Sergeant Ross Laurie, of Mid North police, said a member of the public saw the women run out of the dairy and get into a car. He called police and followed the car towards Waitangi.
Police were able to intercept the car on Haruru Falls Rd and arrested four women aged between 17 and 19. A search of the vehicle uncovered clothing worn during the robbery, tobacco and a hammer, Mr Laurie said.
The women, three from Kaikohe and one from Hamilton, appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Thursday charged with aggravated robbery.
Mr Laurie praised the member of the public whose vigilance had led to the arrests.
"It was good work by all involved," he said.
The man who raised the alarm - who the Advocate has chosen not to name - said he was having "a few quiet ones" after work when a car caught his attention.
It was constantly driving up and down Marsden Rd and its licence plate had been tampered with. Its four occupants were wearing hoodies and slumped down in their seats. One was wearing a balaclava.
When it drove past one more time minus the three passengers he knew something wasn't right. So he jumped in his truck and started following it.
As he came past the dairy on Marsden Rd he noticed the doors had been pulled shut. Through the gap he could see a figure inside wearing a hoodie.
"Then one of then came running out with the owner after her. I could hear the 'ching-ching' from the honesty box they'd grabbed off the counter as well."
The man called police and followed the silver Toyota as it headed towards Waitangi and over the one-way bridge. He suggested police put a road block on Haruru Falls Rd, which was the only way out.
He said the women's behaviour stood out so he followed his hunch. He felt sorry for the shop owner, who was still shaken days later.
"He's a good fulla. He looks after the locals, and everyone works hard for their stuff here."
The dairy owner said he was pleased the alleged offenders had been caught but did not want to comment further.