Dairy worker shaken after violent robbery

ROBBED: A masked man stole cash from the Brook St Store.
ROBBED: A masked man stole cash from the Brook St Store.

A Nelson shop assistant was "very shaken" after being confronted by a balaclava-wearing robber last night.

The woman assistant at the Brook St Store was this morning recovering from the shock of the incident.

Store owner Martin Meads, who was upstairs when the dairy was robbed about 7.15pm and did not hear a thing, was angry but relieved his assistant was unharmed.

He said the staff member, who has worked at the store for several years, handled the situation admirably but was "very shaken".

Nelson police, including detectives and dog handlers arrived within minutes of the alarm being raised last night and are now investigating the robbery.

They said a man wearing a balaclava demanded that the store assistant open the cash drawer and threatened to harm her if she did not co-operate.

Police said the offender was carrying an item under a scarf which had the appearance of a pistol barrel. He took cash from the till before leaving without further incident.

Meads said while he had been burgled before, it was the first time in 18 years he had operated the store that he had dealt with an aggravated incident, which he believed was "opportunistic".

"It was the first time there's been any violence. He pushed her and threatened to harm her.

"She has been with us several years, and while it's just money that's been taken; the fact it was frightening - that's the worst bit," Meads said.

He declined to say how much cash was taken except it was "enough to make it annoying" because money was tight at the moment.

He said while the store had an emergency alarm button, the staff member was unable to get to it because of where she was in the store at the time.

Meads said she was in a small side room behind the counter, came out when she heard someone enter the shop, and was immediately confronted by a tall man wearing a balaclava. The robber left after getting the cash, and the staff member immediately called for help.

"She used the bell. When I got downstairs she was shaking like a leaf. It was a bad end to what had started as a brilliant day," Meads said.

Police said the offender was wearing a black knitted balaclava, black track pants and a plain black polar fleece jacket with a zip down the front.

The shop assistant believed the person was a male of Caucasian descent, possibly middle aged, slim build with brown eyes and red cheeks. He was thought to have left the shop on foot.

Meads, who was still clearly angry this morning, regretted it had not been him behind the counter.

But his wife believed that might have led to a different outcome, he said.

"It's not something you can gear towards stopping. Shops that are open all the time are open to this sort of thing, but I will certainly be reviewing how I operate."

Meads advised other similar operators to regularly empty tills throughout the day.

Detective Sergeant Ian Langridge, of Nelson police, is keen to speak to anyone who may have seen a person fitting the description entering or leaving the store around the time it happened.

People can call the police on 546 3840 or confidentially to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Nelson Mail