Repeat robbery at pharmacy 'felt like Groundhog Day'

Dunedin police officers indicate the direction in which a man fled after the alleged aggravated robbery of Forbury Pharmacy. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin police officers indicate the direction in which a man fled after the alleged aggravated robbery of Forbury Pharmacy. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It "felt like Groundhog Day" for the owner of a pharmacy targeted in an aggravated robbery on Thursday night.

Police were called to Forbury Pharmacy, near Forbury Corner, Dunedin, after a man allegedly threatened three staff members before tying them with masking tape, and leaving the premises with cash and prescription medicine just after 5.30pm.

He was later pepper-sprayed following a short pursuit on foot, which ended in Ruskin Tce, where he allegedly threatened police.

Pharmacy owner Kim Wallis told the Otago Daily Times the incident was "almost identical" to the July robbery.

"It felt like Groundhog Day."

In that incident, a knife-wielding man entered the pharmacy at 5.25pm and herded staff into a back room before running off along Ruskin Tce with some prescription drugs.

Mrs Wallis said both robberies occurred at closing time and she was near the front door - but obscured from the alleged robber's line of sight when he walked to the counter.

"I saw him before he pulled down his balaclava and informed staff it was a hold-up."

A man demanded Ritalin in both robberies, and also took cash in the most recent incident.

Mrs Wallis was able to slip out the front door, and as in the first incident contacted police via a neighbouring shop's landline.

"I wasn't thinking about the fear factor, it was more about getting out and getting help as quickly as possible."

She said the wait while on the phone with police "was awful".

"It was longer this time and made me think of the all possibilities of what might have happened."

Three female staff were unhurt.

"[They were] shaken up, but we are just grateful it was a successful outcome to a very traumatic event.

"Nothing ever prepares you for something like this. You try to be as calm as possible and try not to react in a way that will escalate the situation. You try and calm the person down and get as much detail as you can."

Staff were relieved police had made an arrest after the latest robbery, as it "wasn't a nice feeling when people asked have they got him yet?"

A 45-year-old unemployed man appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday charged with assaulting a police officer and armed robbery in connection with the incident, and for the armed robbery of the same store on July 4. He was remanded in custody.

-hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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