Police are closing in on two men who robbed a Northland superette at gunpoint while four children in the store cowered in fear.
The men entered Waipapa Superette and Lotto about 4.30pm on Saturday armed with a rifle or air gun and a hammer.
Police say one man ''waved his rifle up and down the aisle'' while the other emptied the Lotto till, jumped he counter and helped himself to the cigarette cabinet.
They also stole SPCA and Kidney Kids charity boxes.
The men then jumped into a car which had been stolen a few days earlier and fled north up State Highway 10. The car was found abandoned on Puketi Rd, Okaihau, yesterday with the offenders' clothing inside.
They had their faces covered but at one stage a bandanna worn by the man holding the rifle slipped down, allowing CCTV cameras to capture his face.
The real breakthrough came yesterday when police trawling through CCTV footage in Whangārei found the same car had called in to the Z service station in Kamo on Friday night and Z Porowini before the robbery.
One of the drivers was wearing clothing identical to that of the rifle-wielding robber.
Detective Sergeant Chris Fouhy, of Mid North police, urged anyone who recognised the men, or who had seen the car in Whangārei prior to the robbery, to call the Kaikohe station on (09) 405 2960 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
He also wanted to hear from anyone who had seen the robbery or the getaway car heading north.
The robbery, and another one in Kaikohe on Sunday involving a filleting knife, could have ended with someone being seriously injured.
''It's another example of dairies being targeted for cash and cigarettes. It's just not good enough for hard-working members of the public to be terrorised like this. The shopkeepers weren't the only victims, there were customers in the shop at the time, including children. Any of them could have been hurt.''
The two young children and two teens in the shop at the time were ''really shaken up'', as was a man at the Lotto counter. The weapon may have been an air gun but would have looked like a rifle to anyone in the store, he said.
The manager of Waipapa Superette, Pushpa Moore, did not want to comment on the robbery. She did, however, want to thank her customers for their support and police for their efforts to find the offenders.
The Nissan Primera used in the robbery was stolen from a locked garage in Okaihau early Thursday morning. The thieves had switched the number plates and even replaced the Nissan badge with Mazda logo.
Less than 24 hours later, about 12.30pm on Sunday, a dairy on Broadway, Kaikohe, was robbed by a youth armed with a filleting knife.
Police used CCTV to identify the offender's clothing, and the clothing he switched into outside the store, then found him during a search of the area. Police also located a 13-year-old boy involved in the clothing swap.
A 15-year-old appeared in the Kaikohe Youth Court yesterday charged with aggravated robbery. The 13-year-old had been referred to Youth Aid.
Fouhy said the knife and some cash had been recovered. The rest had apparently been shared among his friends.
Last weekend's raids were only the latest in an alarming series of aggravated robberies of dairies and service stations, most targeting cash and cigarettes.
On November a heavily disguised duo, one of whom wore a pink sock on one hand, robbed GAS in Tikipunga using a stick and knife; while on October 24 three youths armed with what looked like a crowbar assaulted and robbed two staff at Kaikohe Discounters. The offenders, aged 14-16, later surrendered to police.
Earlier, on September 18, Jaques Four Square in Kaiwaka was robbed by a man wielding a rifle who fled in a stolen car. Three teenagers, aged 16, 17 and 19, were arested the following day.