Gunpoint robbery arrests
A Palmerston North car salesman has been left shaken by his brush with gun-toting thieves who stole a valuable rally car.
Rose City Cars' Bruce Herbert was allegedly held at gunpoint by two men in a brazen daylight robbery about 5.20pm on Monday. Police say the men took off in a specialty racing car worth about $38,000 after one pulled a rifle on Mr Herbert.
Three arrests were made yesterday in connection with the robbery.
"I was sitting at my desk and he was standing there with the gun, I just feared for my life," Mr Herbert said. "He had a bullet in his hand and I couldn't tell if he was playing with the bolt. I had no reason to think that he wouldn't [shoot]. I just said, ‘I don't care about the car, just take it, it's only a car'."
Mr Herbert, who is well known in motor racing circles as a three-times Rally of New Zealand champion, had to explain to the thieves how to start the modified Subaru STI.
"I sat there and had to explain to them how to start it, they were very aggravated."
He said one of the men had visited the Ngata St car yard earlier that day wanting to test drive a similar car. As Mr Herbert thought it was already sold, he declined the request. "He came back about 3pm and said he wanted to buy the black [rally] car and wanted to test-drive it. It didn't have a warrant of fitness and I said he couldn't test it without a warrant, but if he'd come back that afternoon he could have a drive."
When the man returned he was asked to show proof of funds before he could take the car for a spin. "At that point he sat in the car with me for a minute and I actually smelled some alcohol on his breath, so I got very suspicious," Mr Herbert said.
"Three or four minutes later he came in with the other guy behind him. He came in with a gun."
Palmerston North Detective Sergeant Dave Thompson said the armed robbery was unusually bold. "From our perspective it's a pretty open and brazen offence."
Mr Herbert was still in shocke at what had happened.
"I can't believe what they've done. To come in here in broad daylight, with no disguise, to come in here three times and when there's other people about."
Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Sheridan said police went to a house near Bulls yesterday afternoon on another matter, but while there found the black Subaru that had been stolen from the car yard, along with a white car police believe was used by the thieves.
Four firearms were also found. The guns and the cars had been taken for forensic testing, Mr Sheridan said.
People at the address were interviewed, and three were arrested.
The two men alleged to have stolen the car will appear in the Palmerston North District Court today, both charged with aggravated robbery. The third man will appear in court on charges unrelated to the robbery.
Mr Sheridan said many witnesses came forward, and police were still making their way through them all.