'Crazy' robber jailed for bar raid

A man who robbed an Auckland bar at gunpoint making patrons fear for their lives has been jailed.

Customers at the Thirsty Whale Bar described Taire Epere and his three co-offenders as "crazy" and thought they were going to die, the Blenheim District Court heard yesterday.  

Judge Stephen Harrop sentenced Epere, a 35-year-old plasterer from Havelock, to five years and six months jail on a single charge of aggravated robbery. 

Judge Harrop said the masked men entered the Mt Albert Rd bar about 10.45pm on July 25 and told everyone to lie down, while Epere waved a shotgun at staff and patrons.

The group forced the bar manager to hand over about $700 in cash from behind the bar, took money from four poker machines, then led him to a back office where they demanded he open a safe. 

When he told them he couldn't there was a struggle and Epere struck the man in the back of the head, leaving him with a wound that required six stitches, Judge Harrop said. 

The group also took cash and wallets from customers, before fleeing in a stolen car, he said. 

The judge told Epere the experience was terrifying for the people in the bar.

There was evidence Epere felt coerced, the judge said, but he was still the person who was armed and he and the other offenders had persisted in seeking more and more money during the robbery.

Since his arrest, Epere had written letters of apology to the victims and appeared genuinely remorseful, Judge Harrop said. 

He had also agreed to meet with his victims in a restorative justice meeting if they agreed, which showed considerable courage and suggested he did have some empathy for his victims, the court heard.

The offending appeared to be "in a whole new league" to Epere's previous offending, Judge Harrop said. 

Epere was on release conditions after being jailed for receiving stolen goods, but appeared to have his life on track and the offending came as a shock to people who knew him. 

One of Epere's co-offenders had also pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentence. Another man was awaiting trial, while the fourth offender had not been caught.

Auckland Now