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SunLive – More arrests after aggravated robbery in Whakatāne

Two more people have been arrested today in connection with an aggravated robbery at a Michael Hill jewelery store in Whakatāne yesterday afternoon, says Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander Inspector Nicky Cooney.

“Four people fled the scene yesterday in a vehicle after the robbery.

“Police fired at the vehicle they were traveling in, which stopped on Stanley Road after a chase.

“Two men, aged 20 and 21, were detained at the scene, while the other two men traveling in the vehicle, aged 21 and 22, fled on foot towards a steep mountain.

“Due to the dangerous topography and concerns for their safety, a large-scale search was launched, involving police personnel, a canine unit and search and rescue teams.

“As daylight was running out, the Police Eagle helicopter was dispatched from Auckland.

“The helicopter was equipped with a forward-facing infrared camera, night vision equipment and a spotlight.

“Despite a significant search effort, the couple was not located.

“That changed today at 7:54 a.m., when a person called police to report two men walking in a meadow off State Highway 2 in Taneatua.

“When the police arrived, the men fled again on foot towards the mountains.

“Although they crossed a river, a police dog unit followed their trail and led officers to where the men were hiding.

“One of the men was treated at the scene for a dog bite.

“Police have since charged the four men with aggravated robbery.

“They appeared at Whakatāne District Court this morning and were remanded in custody to reappear on Wednesday, May 22.

“The public has played an important role in this successful outcome and we want to extend our thanks to community members for their help and the information they provided.

“The community has played a key role in helping us resolve this so quickly.

“The staff at Michael Hill also deserve much praise for their response to such a traumatic event.

“We understand the effect this will have on them and support is being offered.

“Coincidentally, just a few days ago our Area Prevention Manager and Investigations Manager visited every jewelery shop in Whakatāne to understand what plans they had for incidents like this.

“Those conversations included discussing staff safety, exit plans and the process of calling the police if your store was targeted.

“We also outlined our response to these retailers to help them understand the process in those situations.

“The response planning by both police and retailers worked very well and that result was demonstrated yesterday, even though no one expected to put those plans into action so soon.

“I am also proud of the efforts of our police personnel, who quickly apprehended two suspects and embarked on a search for two more people in dangerous areas.

“We understand this was a disturbing and distressing incident, but this incident shows how far we will go to protect our community.

“We would still like to hear from anyone who witnessed the incident or who may have video footage of the incident.

“If you can help, please call 105 or make a request online at 105.police.govt.nz, using “Update Report.”

“Please reference file number 240502/9091.

“As this case is before the courts, the police cannot comment further.”