A dairy owner who took on a group of robbers this week says he recognised one of them as a child he'd helped more than 10 years ago.

Baldev Patel was at work on Monday evening when four people, some with their faces covered, charged into the Pomare Food Market in Lower Hutt and attempted to rob it.

"When they come, one on left, one on right, another come straight, jump on my counter and attack on me and I just grabbed him," Patel said.

I was so scared because there was four of them.

The pair scuffled for a few moments before one of the other thieves joined in. The group then fled the store, swiping three or four packs of cigarettes on the way out.

Advertisement

"That happened so very quickly, not even 30 seconds," said Patel.

It's the first robbery he's experienced at his Taita dairy in the 13 years he has been running it, he said.

He was glad his wife wasn't working that evening "otherwise there would be more disaster".

"I was so scared because there was four of them . . . I didn't have any time to react myself, it was happen so very quickly.

"On that day my heart was beating, my heart beat was so fast . . . I rang police and they said 'calm down, calm down'."

Patel was surprised to recognise one of the thieves as a child he had once helped.

He believed it was more than 10 years ago he had spotted the boy crying outside because his mother was supposed to pick him up and had not arrived.

Patel remembers speaking to the boy and inviting him inside to wait.

Advertisement

He said the group of attackers today would have been aged between 18-20.

Patel's shoulder was hurt slightly in the robbery, as one of the men tackled him, but he said he was feeling much better now.

He feels safe because his store is on the main street and has customers coming in and out often.

He has had plenty of support from the community.

Police have been contacted for comment.