Doug Roake – from schoolboy actor to armed robber who terrorised bar staff across Canterbury

Doug Roake was a security guard at Richie and Gemma McCaw's wedding.

Doug Roake was a security guard at Richie and Gemma McCaw's wedding.

Doug Roake​ pointed his long-barrelled pump action shotgun at the woman. "I'm going to shoot you," he said. He pulled the trigger and shot the woman in the stomach. She fell to the floor. Roake went back to hitting the woman's daughter, who already had a bullet in her leg, with a mallet while she pleaded for her life.

Roake – a kid who didn't quite fit in in high school and found solace in the drama department, a kid who was a bit strange but also "a really nice guy", a kid who never touched drugs, who got into power lifting after he left school and worked security at Richie and Gemma McCaw's wedding – had committed five armed robberies of Canterbury pubs for more than $100,000 and now shot two people in a home invasion. But it was all about to end. His 40-day crime spree had less than 12 hours to run.


Doug Roake, with fish in hand, performing Spamalot in 2010.

Doug Roake, with fish in hand, performing Spamalot in 2010.

Roake, nicknamed Fish, was born in Lyttelton on April 4, 1994. He attended Hillcrest High School in Hamilton, before moving back south. He worked as a labourer and a security guard and was interested in powerlifting and guns.

Growing up he could be unstable. Up and down in his moods.

"He would be your best friend one day, but he would switch very easily and get angry at little things," one high school classmate said.

Roake blasted his way into The Brickworks Bar in Cashmere.

Roake blasted his way into The Brickworks Bar in Cashmere.

"I'm not sure what his home life was like but he was definitely bullied all through school."

Another school friend said he "didn't quite fit in".

"But [he] found a home at the drama department where he could be creative, he really liked acting in the school shows."

The trends continued into adulthood. A former employer, who did not want to be named, said Roake was a nice guy but "everyone thought he was strange".

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"He would . . . pick up a lump of concrete and try and break it by hand.

The employer let Roake go after about five months on the job.

Roake robbed The Hotel Ashburton in April.

Roake robbed The Hotel Ashburton in April.

"He was going to end up killing someone or . . . himself," he said, "He was like a bull out of the gate."

Online records show his security licence expired in 2015, 16 months before McCaw's wedding. 


Roake, armed with a firearm, robbed the Tavern Harewood on May 10.

Roake, armed with a firearm, robbed the Tavern Harewood on May 10.

Roake may have exhibited some strange behaviour, but nothing that pointed to him embarking on a crime spree that would terrorise the hospitality industry.

Before he robbed Tavern Harewood of nearly $19,000 on March 10 he had a clean police record. It was a remarkably violent crime for a first-time offender. He carried a shotgun in his left hand and a black plastic rubbish bag in his right. Through eye slits cut out of a black woollen hat he looked at the duty manager and told him to fill the bag with cash from the safe and gaming machines. "Stay still," he said, "And I won't hurt anybody."

Four days later Roake entered the Brickworks bar in Cashmere carrying a new shotgun and a backpack. The bar's manager was in the pokie room when she heard Roake tell staff to "get on the ground". He was calm and collected. He looked uncaring. Oh my God, the duty manager thought. How did that happen?

Roake made the same request as the first robbery: cash from the safe and pokie machines in the bag. "You're doing well ma'am," he said as the duty manager complied. He ran out the door carrying $43,000.


March 24: Roake walked into Trevino's Restaurant and Bar in Riccarton carrying a shotgun and a black bag and wearing a similar disguise to the previous robberies. He fled with nearly $30,000 cash.

March 29: Roake walked into the Brickworks bar carrying a shotgun in his left hand. Staff refused to let him in, so he fired two rounds through the glass panels of the door to get in. He threw his bag at the duty manager and pointed the gun at her. "You're doing well ma'am," he said, as she filled it with cash. He left with $12,000.

Two days after his 23rd birthday, on April 6, Roake walked into the Springston Hotel carrying a long barrelled SKS rifle with the wooden stock cut off. "Get the money out of the tills and place it in the bag," he said to the duty manager. He threatened several patrons that he would "blow their heads off".

When the manager said she could not access the safe, the man emptied a round from the rifle into the ceiling and demanded money from the gaming machines.

He asked again about the safe, was rebuffed, and shot a second round through the roof. He left with about $10,000.


Police by now knew the robberies were linked and they were worried.

The offender was walking into open pubs, filled with staff and patrons and not hesitating to fire his gun when he didn't immediately get what he wanted.

It was brazen and reckless and someone could get killed.

"We encourage bar owners to ensure they do their banking daily and remain especially vigilant around closing time," Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said after the Springston robbery.

Police assembled a large team of investigators to try and solve the case. One name that was not on their suspect list was Doug Roake, a man with a firearms licence and no criminal record.

A man who was living at the rental home of a Christchurch police officer. That was about to change.


About 10pm on April 19, Roake entered a property on Newtons Rd in Rolleston.

In the main house were two women – a mother and daughter.

Roake, carrying a pump action shotgun and a new sportsbag with a mallet in it, ran to the front door. He saw a third woman, who lived in a barn on the property, standing nearby. He pointed the gun at her and ordered her inside, but she escaped to the barn and phoned police.

Roake forgot her and fired two shots through the front door before walking inside. The mother and daughter were watching TV in the living room and got up when they heard the noise. The three of them met in the kitchen.

Roake ordered them to the floor and demanded money and car keys. The daughter baulked.

She thought she would be killed, and refused to lie down.

She lunged at Roake and tried to grab the gun while her mother ran out of the room and phoned her son, who lived nearby, to raise the alarm.

The daughter managed to pull Roake's balaclava off and immediately recognised him.

Roake hit her with the mallet and then shot her in the leg but she managed to pull herself up, using the kitchen island to stay away from Roake.

She pleaded with him that she didn't want to die.

Roake fired a shot into the roof, chased the daughter and caught her again. He was hitting her repeatedly with the mallet when the mother re-entered the kitchen and hit him with the lid of an ornamental vase.

Roake turned around and pointed the gun at her.

"I'm going to shoot you," he said, and shot her in the stomach. He returned to hitting the daughter with the mallet.


By this stage, the son had arrived and looked through the kitchen window.

Roake saw him and pointed the gun at his head, but the son ran around the house and in the front door to confront him.

The game was up. Roake was out of bullets.

He fled the property and drove to Ashburton. There was time for one more robbery.

At about 11.20pm Roake walked into the Turf Bar at the Ashburton Hotel with his usual accoutrements – shotgun and backpack – but no balaclava.He fired three shots and took $1645 cash from the safe. He fled again, to a property at the Rakaia Huts, near the Rakaia River mouth. Police by now knew who they were looking for and picked him up the next morning.


On Monday, Douglas Anderson Roake, 23, appeared in the Christchurch District Court and pleaded guilty to six charges of aggravated robbery, two charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and two charges of presenting a firearm.

His story is not over.

Much of the $100,000 he stole has not been recovered.

No motive for his crimes has emerged, nor any explanation for why a nice, if a little strange, young misfit grew into a shotgun-wielding robber. 

He will be sentenced on August 23.

 - Stuff

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