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An armed robber held a terrified Kaitaia bakery worker in a headlock and put a knife to her throat.
Detective Sergeant Trevor Beatson said the three victims survived a harrowing encounter with the intruder physically unscathed but he wanted to catch the offender as quickly as possible, "before they consider doing it, or actually do try it again".
The robber, believed to be female, entered the Coast 2 Coast bakery. She went behind the counter, where three people were preparing food, picked up a large bread knife, held it to the throat of one of the victims and demanded money.
She grabbed what Mr Beatson described as a small amount of cash in $5 and $10 notes when another employee opened the cash register, still holding the first victim in a headlock with the knife at her throat, then left.
Detectives had been to the scene and had recovered forensic evidence that they believed would lead to the identification of the offender, he added, but he appealed to the public for information to help solve the crime.
"We are confident that we will identify this person through forensic means. However, there may be some delay in this process, and we want to catch this person as soon as possible," he said.
"We want to hear from anyone who was out and about in the early hours of Sunday morning and saw any suspicious behaviour in Kaitaia's CBD, particularly around the bakery, or anyone who noticed a female friend, partner or family member who was not at home at that time on Sunday morning.
"I would ask anyone who recognises the person pictured, or the clothing worn by the suspect, to get hold of us urgently." The suspect is described as probably female, 5ft 11in (1.8 metre) tall, and of medium build, wearing a green jacket with a hood, "greyish" three-quarter skinny pants and black jandals.
Officers can be contacted at the Kaitaia police station, phone 09 4086500 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- By Kristin Edge of the Northern Advocate