Sewer men chase down dairy robber

CAROLINE KING AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
road workers landscape
CARYS MONTEATH/The Press

FAST RUNNERS: City Care road workers Damon Sam, Issa Yusuf, Clint Kissel and Mike Leathem caught a thief fleeing a Hillmorton dairy with a briefcase of money this morning.

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Only moments after a thief got his hands on a briefcase full of cash, he was slammed into the dirt and had his feet bound.

It wasn't the police who caught the 37-year-old, but four City Care employees working to repair Christchurch's sewerage system.

The quartet acted on "instinct" to tackle the robber, pin him down, tie him up and wait for the boys in blue.

And they may have earned a few beers for their troubles.

City Care worker Clint Kissel was chatting to a fellow contractor on Coppell Pl in Hoon Hay about 7am yesterday when he spotted the owner of a nearby dairy chasing a man down the road.

"We just heard yelling," Kissel recalled.

"We couldn't make out what he was saying at first until he came closer. He was about 10 metres behind him," Kissel said.

He reached out to grab the thief but the man managed to slip past him and kept running up the road.

Meanwhile, Kissel's colleagues Mike Leathem, Issa Yusuf and Damon Sam were in the middle of a team meeting in a caravan further down the road when they saw the scene unfold.

"We knew the dairy owner because we go in there often for drinks," Leathem said.

"He was chasing this guy and yelling but we could see he wasn't going to catch him.

"I saw Clint try to grab the guy but he managed to side-step him and continued running towards me and Damon. It became clear it was a robbery-type situation and it was just a spur of the moment thing that we had to help."

Sam "rugby league"-tackled the thief into a bed of white roses, where he collapsed face down in the dirt. "He managed a league hit and then I dived on and the other guys ran down and jumped on too," Leathem said.

"He was quite a sizeable guy and he was fighting to get up. Eventually, after a while, he gave up."

The workers removed the man's hood, exposing his face, and cable-tied his feet. The dairy owner retrieved the briefcase and went back to his shop.

"He was face down in the rose bush and looked a bit uncomfortable so once his feet were tied we propped him up while someone in the crowd called the police," Leathem said. "After he stopped struggling he sort of muttered ‘sorry' but we mostly sat in silence until the police came."

The dairy owner, who did not want to be named, told The Press he had arrived at work at 7am with the briefcase full of money for his till.

He put it on the ground for "just a second" when the thief crossed the road, sprinted towards him and snatched it.

"He grabbed it and ran away . . . I chased him yelling ‘help me', ‘help me'."

Later, the dairy owner reviewed his security footage and saw the man had been standing on the other side of the road watching him as he arrived at work.

"He may have been watching me for a few days," he said.

He was "very grateful" the City Care workers had been able to stop the man.

"It's extremely lucky they were there."

Leathem said they had acted on "instinct".

"Issa joked he's going to cut out the story and send it home to the family in Ethiopia to get framed. We've got the photo printed out on the caravan wall at work already."

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The workers' boss has agreed to shout the crew a few beers as a thank you.

"I think we deserve a beer. It definitely wasn't the day we expected when we got up today."

- The Press

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