Dunedin hotel robber planned raids at her own Christchurch bar

The woman admitted her part in an aggravated robbery of the Law Courts Hotel in Dunedin last year.
The woman admitted her part in an aggravated robbery of the Law Courts Hotel in Dunedin last year.
A woman who plotted armed robberies of her own pub in Christchurch has admitted taking part in an aggravated robbery of a Dunedin hotel last year.

Duty bar manager Joanne Francis Smith (47) organised for knifemen to raid The Fitz sports bar in Christchurch and terrorise bar staff, while she played along, pretending to be a frightened victim.

Smith told a knifeman when and how to storm the bar, before making off with $38,000 and then $48,000 of bar and pokies cash in armed hold-ups on July 31 and October 29 last year.

Smith admitted charges of aggravated robbery at Christchurch District Court this morning, and also owned up to one at the Law Courts Hotel in Dunedin in December.

Now, it can be revealed how The Fitz duty manager came to dream up the robberies.

Before work on Monday July 31 last year, she told a man, who has interim name suppression, that she would be closing the bar about 10pm.

After kicking out the last drinker, Smith and a colleague started closing up.

She took cash from the tills and pokie machines and suggested to her co-worker that they go outside for a cigarette.

Once in the courtyard, Smith texted the man, who jumped the fence and approached the co-worker from behind and held a knife up to her.

"Get me the money," he demanded.

"[Smith] acted as though she was fearful, scared and unaware of what was unfolding," the police summary of facts says.

The knifeman ordered money from the office safe put into a plastic bag before fleeing with $38,000.

And on Sunday, October 29 last year, Smith arranged an unknown male, dressed in work gear, including hi-visibility overalls, gumboots, gloves, hard hat with earmuffs, and armed with a large carving knife, to raid the bar just before 9am.

This time, a male co-worker was subjected to the horrifying ordeal, and Smith again pretended not to know what was happening, and "acting as though she was a victim as well".

The knifeman got away with $48,000.

Dunedin robbery

Today, Smith also admitted a third aggravated robbery from the Law Courts Hotel in Dunedin in December.

She, another woman and a man who have interim name suppression scoped out the bar before coming back around midnight.

Their faces covered by masks, Smith and the man stormed into the hotel armed with a knife they held to a staff member's neck.

She was forced to open the safe and told to empty cash into a backpack.

The victim was told to go into a toilet next to the office and "count to 100" before coming out.

The "very frightened and shaken" victim did so, but when she returned to the office, the robbers were still there.

She was told to go back into the toilet and "count to 1000" while the pair fled with $16,707.

The next day, police caught up with Smith back in Christchurch where she admitted her role in the aggravated robbery.

Judge David Saunders remanded Smith in custody to be sentenced on May 23.

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