Chemist told to rest after fatal struggle

An autopsy today is expected to determine how a man, believed to be burgling an Auckland pharmacy, died in a struggle with the owner yesterday.

The aging pharmacist who struggled with an intruder moments before the man died during a break-in has been told to rest by doctors because of stress.

Police this morning named the intruder as Bruce Allan Jones, 43, unemployed, from Mt Albert.

Grant Gillard had worked in his small Auckland pharmacy for over 40 years before his struggle with the intruder turned deadly.

The confrontation broke out after the intruder emerged from his hiding place inside the shop in New North Rd, Mt Albert and surprised Mr Gillard in the darkness early yesterday.

Moments into a scuffle between the pair the middle-aged burglar lay dying while the "frail'' pharmacist, aged in his late 60s, was left unscathed.

Outside his lawyer's office last night an exhausted Mr Gillard, accompanied by his wife Vera, said he was unable to comment while police were investigating.

''It's been a long day and I've been speaking with the police.''

His lawyer Richard Earwaker said Mr Gillard had been through a ''traumatic ordeal''.

''He's bearing up remarkably well but it's been a very stressful and frightening experience. Medical advice is for him to get rest at this point.''

Last night police refused to discuss whether weapons were used in the incident and said it was too early to comment on the dead man's injuries.

After being questioned Mr Gillard was released without charge.

Mr Earwaker said Mr Gillard did not know the man.

''It was just a burglary, he didn't know him.''

The police had been ''very professional'' in dealing with Mr Gillard and he expected that a decision on further action would follow the results of the port mortem.

A large gaping hole could be seen in the back wall of the pharmacy yesterday but Police western area commander Inspector Jim Wilson would not confirm whether the burglar had broken into the store through the hole or attempted to steal anything from inside.

Police said Mr Gillard had been asleep in his Remuera home when the phone rang early yesterday morning.

His security company, Greene Security, told him an alarm had been triggered at his pharmacy and they had discovered signs of a break-in.

Just after 4.30am Mr Gillard drove across town to his shop to meet the waiting security guard outside Gillards Pharmacy.

Together the men entered the store, searching it for about 10 minutes,  Mr Wilson said.

They saw no sign of anyone, so the security guard left, leaving Mr Gillard to lock up the shop alone.

It was then the intruder appeared and a struggle broke out between the two. Police were yesterday refusing to provide details of the scuffle.

All that is known is minutes after the fight broke out Mr Gillard called his wife  and asked her to call police.

Mr Wilson said officers arrived at the scene shortly before 5.30am and began trying to perform CPR on the intruder.

He was pronounced dead by ambulance staff just after 6am.

An autopsy will be carried out  this morning. Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty would not speculate whether Mr Gillard would face charges. 

''He has no injuries that we are aware of,'' Ms Hegarty said.

Greene Security said they did not wish to comment  in case they jeopardised the police case.

But a man at the company's office said they ''felt comfortable with what had happened'' during the call-out. 

One of the Gillards' neighbours  said the couple had lived in their home for more than 20 years but kept to themselves.

''He is a pretty frail sort of guy. I can't imagine him grappling with an intruder. It's very surprising.

''I don't think he works full time at the store anymore. But he's not the type you see out gardening and out and about, he's a pretty feeble sort of fellow.''

It's been four decades since  Mr Gillard and his wife  set up shop in Mt Albert.

The pair bought the business in 1969, six months before they were married.

Mr Gillard said his wife had been his ''right arm'' ever since, he told Fairfax Media in an interview last year.

Mrs Gillard had also worked at the pharmacy as a lab technician and computer programmer.