THREE masked robbers armed with a shot-gun and wearing military-style clothes got away with more than $200,000 when they stormed Bank South Pacific (BSP) branch in Auki just after 11am yesterday.
The incident brought the provincial capital into lockdown as schools, businesses and offices closed for the day in the wake of gun shots the robbers fired.
A hunt for the robbers is under after Honiara police dispatched armed RAMSI personnel to assist Malaita police in their investigations.
Eye-witnesses said the three robbers in ski-masks entered the bank at 11:25am.
Bank officers say the one with the shot-gun discharged a shot outside bank that saw customers flee for their lives whilst the other two rushed in for the tellers.
“The robbers yelled at the three bank tellers serving the customers ‘don’t look at us!’ and ransacked all the cash in the drawers into a sack,” a bank officer told the Solomon Star.
Mobile photos captured by one of the BSP tellers showed one of the robbers opening the drawers and pour cash into the sack. He wore hand gloves.
Witnesses say minutes after the masked robbers walked out with the sack of cash, they fired another shot towards an advancing police vehicle.
Police say the robbers jumped into a Rav-4 vehicle parked outside the bank, which they also stole, and quickly fled the scene.
“Speeding down the road towards Buma area, the robbers then held at gun point a grader operator working on the road and ordered him to block the road with the heavy machine with aim to keep away the pursuing police vehicle,” an Auki police officer said.
“Leaving the grader blocking the way, the robbers then got hold of its key and took off again,” says the police officer.
The Rav-4 was later retrieved at Gwounoá area in west Kwaraáe.
Police believed the robbers came to a dead end at Gwounoá when one of the tyres punctured, forcing them to abandon the Rav-4 and head for the hills.
Police say the Rav-4, which was used as a taxi, had been hijacked by the robbers at Fiu bridge with the driver being ejected before heading downtown to execute their mission.
“Villagers told us they saw the three armed robbers after leaving the vehicle who asked for directions as they head out into the bush.
“One was holding onto the shot-gun and the other two carrying the sack of cash running into the bush with their ski-masks on,” the officer said.
Auki police say they were powerless to keep the robbers at bay because they were unarmed.
There were no reports of injuries from customers and staff of the bank.
It was observed the robbers have no intention of hurting anyone except to lay their hands on the cash.
The bank was temporarily closed for business until further notice whilst hunt for the robbers is carried out.
Source: Solomon Star