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Dairy robbed but owners resilient

Flagstaff Team

Resilient… Yogita Patel and Himmat Bhai (after the 2018 robbery) plan to carry on

Swift action by locals led to police arresting four youths shortly after an armed robbery at a Narrow Neck dairy.

Four hooded and masked robbers, carrying a large knife and hammers, entered Devon Superette around 2pm on 17 December,

The two teen-aged female customers in the shop at the time crouched in corners.

Behind the counter, business owner Himmat (Matt) Bhai fled towards the door into his adjoining home, but found his way blocked by one of the robbers.

His wife, Yogita Patel, was coming to see what the noise was and saw Matt was trapped by a large man with a knife. She threw a heavy, metal sticky-tape dispenser at the robber. This distracted him, allowing Matt to dash past and through the door, locking it behind him.

In 30 seconds, the robbers destroyed the shops’ new cash register with a hammer, stealing $435 in cash, and took about 40 packets of cigarettes from a cabinet.

As soon as the robbers left, the girls called the police.

The couple alerted a neighbour who pursued the alleged robbers in her vehicle.

As they turned the corner in front of the dairy, she was pointing at them.

“Everybody could see the number plate,” Matt says. “I told the girls and they passed it onto the police.”

Police swarmed the area and arrested four youths, aged 16 and 17. They face a raft of charges and were next due to appear in the Youth Court on 29 January.

The couple understand the offenders were arrested at Esmonde Rd, subsequently bailed, and are from South Auckland.

The experience was frightening, but they want to continue serving the community, as they have done for the past 18 years.

No serious crime had previously occurred at the dairy, until a ram raid in 2014, then a robbery in 2018, and now the latest incident.

The family have no plans to close the business or install a grille. Matt says they will gauge the incidence of crime, but he still believes Devonport is relatively safe.

Yogita, though, is concerned crime is worsening and would like to see more street lights nearby, plus CCTV cameras.

The couple are very grateful to the many people in the community who checked in on them, expressed concern and gave them flowers. Police retrieved the cash and most of the cigarettes, Matt said.

This article originally appeared in the 31 January edition of the Devonport FlagstaffDownload PDF.