11 most horrific robberies in past 4 years

ARMED robberies are nothing new for Clarence Valley businesses, but the traumatic trail they leave behind never gets easier.

This week Donuts and Dairy Cafe owner Karen Collins sent an emotional plea for Grafton to stand up against crime after a 20-year-old employee was left shaken by two men raiding the business in Grafton Food Emporium at knifepoint.

"I've got nothing but the highest praise for them," she said. "Their response was just the best.

"Everyone from the uniformed police to the detectives handled it brilliantly."

This latest incident is a timely reminder of how common brazen thefts have become in our community, that police are looking out for us and often the perpetrators do get caught, and that if we work together we can make our community a safer place to live.

Anyone with information which can help police inquiries in relation to such crimes are urged to phone Grafton police on 6642 0222 or CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.

Here are just some (not all) of the similar incidents that have been documented by The Daily Examiner in the past four years:

1. RISE IN ROBBERIES IN THE CLARENCE VALLEY

June 2013: Harvey Norman Grafton's John Stewart arrived at the shop on June 11 to $6000 worth of damage after a ram raid about 11.15pm the previous night.

Detective Sergeant Graham Burke from the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command said a stolen vehicle reversed into the main doors of the Harvey Norman store and the thieves got into the building and stole some goods.

The vehicle used in the ram raid was found abandoned two hours later on Fry St.  

Unfortunately Mr Stewart wasn't the only business owner picking up the pieces after this latest crime spike

In the same week the Prince Street Coffee House was broken into with a sum of cash taken, Grafton Health Foods store also targeted and an armed robbery at a Grafton bottle shop, all following Grafton police's Inspector Tony Milner declaring a worrying spike in petty theft, car theft and break and enters in South Grafton.

2. ARMED HOLD UP AT KFC GRAFTON

July, 2013: An armed robbery took place at KFC Grafton at about 9.10pm on July 2. Police alleged two teenage females entered the fast food restaurant on Fitzroy St armed with knives, demanded cash and fled on foot with about $400.

A short time later a patrolling police officer identified a female who ran from officers before they located her again on the Grafton Bridge. Officers tasered the teenager after she threatened self harm.

The 17-year-old was taken to Grafton Hospital for treatment for a cut to her chin before later being taken to Grafton Police Station.

3. POLICE ON THE HUNT AFTER WOOLI ARMED ROBBERY

August, 2013: A club at Wooli was the scene of a armed robbery on Thursday, August 15.

About 4.20am, a 47-year-old man attended a recreational club on Riverside Drive to begin work. Upon entering the premises, he was met by an offender armed with a shot gun.

The man was forced into a toilet within the club while the offender and an accomplice raided the club, stealing cash.   About half an hour later a 58-year-old woman who also works at the club, entered the premises where she was threatened and forced into the toilet.

Both offenders left the premises about 5.30am in a vehicle described as a white 4WD. No one was injured and no shots were fired.

4. CRIME SPATE ROCKS GRAFTON

September, 2013: A cashier at BP Marina in South Grafton was subjected to a horror armed robbery on the morning of Sunday, September 1.

Police heard how three men, one armed with a knife and another with sticks, allegedly threatened and assaulted the male employee before fleeing the service station in the cashier's car with cash and cigarettes just after 4.30am.  

Grafton Rowing Club was also targeted by criminals the same weekend. The rowing shed was broken into through the roller door and four motors were stolen from speed boats in the shed, estimated at a total value of $8000.

5. HAT DNA LEADS TO ULMARRA ROBBERY ARREST

July 2014: Leaving behind a hat at the scene of a crime led to a man being arrested for an armed robbery of a newsagency at Ulmarra.

The incident occurred on March 14, when a man demanded cash before allegedly punching the male owner. He fled empty-handed and dropped a hat, from which DNA was matched, leading to an arrest four months later.

6. THREE CHARGED FOR ATTACKING GERMAN BACKPACKERS

December, 2015: Three men were charged over an alleged robbery and assault in South Grafton, which left two German backpackers with significant injuries.

The assault took place on December 17, soon after a 25-year-old woman and 26-year-old man arrived in their campervan at a park on Riverside Dr in South Grafton.

At about 10.45pm they were allegedly approached by three men, who took items from their camp fridge as well as other property, including a phone and laptop.

The tourists were then allegedly assaulted by the group; punching and kicking them several times.

Grafton Police Inspector Tony Milner said the incident was an example of innocent people being preyed upon and taken advantage of by a "pack of thugs".

"It's not something the police, the courts or society in general tolerate," he said.

7. AXE-WIELDING BANDIT TRAUMATISES STORE WORKERS

April, 2016: The owner Boundary Convenience Store said her biggest concern was the well-being of her two staff members after they were confronted by an axe-wielding thief at the store at about 3pm on April 4. 

Alison Duff had just left the shop and arrived home when she received the call about the robbery.

The man's face was covered and he had used the axe to smash the glass panel in the food preparation area.

When the man left the shop, one of the staff members ran outside to get the registration number of the thief's vehicle, which was last seen going in a northerly direction along Queen St-Lawrence Rd.

"There would normally be one or two cars and customers around at that time, but as it happened there was no-one else about," Mrs Duff said.

A Grafton store was robbed by an axe-wielding bandit on Monday, 4th of April, 2016.
A Grafton store was robbed by an axe-wielding bandit on Monday, 4th of April, 2016.

 She said the employees had been left traumatised by the incident.

"I feel so bad for them," she said. "They did the right thing by following the man's instructions and giving him the cash from the till and cigarettes he demanded."

8. SPATE OF ARMED ROBBERIES RAISES ALARM

May 2016: An 18-year-old was refused bail following an armed robbery of the Coles Express petrol station on Bent St, South Grafton.

Armed with a small tomahawk around 10.46pm on Thursday, May 4, a man approached the counter demanding cash and cigarettes.

It is alleged he later fled the store with an amount of cash and was tracked by police to a South Grafton location, where he was arrested and taken into custody.

It was the fourth armed robbery in the Grafton area in just over a month. An axe-wielding man left employees traumatised when he robbed the Boundary Store in Queen St, Grafton on April 4, two men used "tool-type implements" to hold up the United service station on Schwinghammer St, South Grafton on April 18 and the BP Tornik at Clarenza was targeted on April 25, allegedly by a 16-year-old armed with a tomahawk.

Coffs/Clarence acting crime manager Detective Sergeant Ian Corcoran said it was becoming a concerning trend.   "It is a concerning trend that young people think it's an easy way to access money and cigarettes," Det Sgt Corcoran said.

"The offence itself carries heavy penalties for what the reward really is and given the success rate lately of police due to good work and investigation, we'd be suggesting that this sort of crime is not worth it.

"That's not to mention the trauma they put the shop attendants through." It is the fourth armed robbery in the Grafton area in just over a month, and Coffs/Clarence acting crime manager Detective Sergeant Ian Corcoran said it was becoming a concerning trend.

9. MACHETE-WIELDING ROBBER TARGETS DELIVERY DRIVERS

May, 2016: Police warned delivery drivers to be mindful of their personal safety following an armed robbery in Grafton.

About 8.10pm on Tuesday, May 10, a 24-year-old man was delivering a takeaway food order to a home on Bacon St when he was confronted by two unknown males armed with machetes.

The males demanded money and the food. The delivery driver complied, and the males ran away with cash and the food towards the Clarence River.

Coffs/Clarence crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Jameson noted that these type of violent crimes had "the hallmarks of drug addiction".

"Locally, we've seen a strong association with both (drugs) and crime... either cannabis or crystal methamphetamine," he said.

"Both drugs are showing a strong prevalence to crime in our local communities, and as the crystal meth addiction widens we're seeing a close reliance on use of the two drugs together."

10. GRAFTON MAN REFUSED BAIL ON DRUGS, ROBBERY CHARGES

November, 2016: The elaborate crime was committed in Sydney, but Strike Force Duffield ended with arrests in Grafton.

The three-month investigation stemmed from a robbery of $204,000 cash from a hotel in Sydney's south in September.

Mitchell Alan Powrie, 29, was arrested, taken to Grafton Police Station and refused bail on a string of charges including aggravated break enter and steal, fsupply prohibited drug, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, conspiracy to supply prohibited drug, and participate in a criminal group. A 14-year-old boy was also arrested and charged with similar offences.

The staff member was arrested at Port Macquarie, with police alleging he had been complicit in the planning of the robbery.

11. MAN HOLDS UP GRAFTON BUSINESS WITH A SCREWDRIVER

November, 2016: Police were on the hunt for a man who made off with cash after holding up the Grafton Lotto Plus Newsagency with a screwdriver.

The incident happened at 5.50am, less than an hour after the Prince St business opened for the day.

Police said the man entered the newsgency and ran behind the counter, confronting a female retail assistant with the tool and demanded money before fleeing with cash.

The suspect was described as being of Aboriginal appearance, slim build, about 180cm tall, and was wearing a dark hooded jumper and navy-coloured pants at the time of the offence.                                      



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