The Northern Star

Ballina in horror as gunman holds up branch

AN ARMED gunman made off with a sum of money after holding up the Ballina branch of the Summerland Credit Union yesterday.

Terrified staff were unable to provide police with a description of the man, who walked into the branch at 10.36am with a towel or cloth draped over his face.

Described only as being of 'slight to medium build', the man produced a hand gun and demanded money from a bank teller.

He then made off on foot along River Street with the cash and was last seen on the corner of Cherry and Moon streets.

It is the second time the Ballina branch has been robbed.

A similar robbery occurred in April, 2005.

The Ocean Shores branch of the same credit union was held up in March, 2006.

Police are calling for any witnesses to come forward with information about the robbery. This could help them put together a Com Fit image of the perpetrator.

Crime prevention officer Michael Hogan said it was not unusual for people to freeze when confronted with a weapon.

“In such incidents the person on the other side of the counter freezes. They only see the gun and not the face,” Snr Const Hogan said.

The branch was shut immediately after the robbery and forensic police moved in to collect evidence.

Detectives and general duties officers then took to the streets to canvas the public for information.

A spokesperson for the Summerland Credit Union confirmed yesterday it had been targeted by a gunman. The credit union would not provide further details of the incident, except to say its primary concern at all times was for the safety of both staff members and the public.

It said 'it was pleased to advise that no member of staff or the general public were harmed as a result of the incident'.

Snr Const Hogan said although no one was physically injured, such incidents usually had a psychological impact on the people present.

He said the fact the branch was targeted in 2005 did not mean its security systems were lax.

“You can't say it is an easy target because you don't know what is in the mind of the offender,” Snr Const Hogan said.

“The branch may have just happened to be on the same side of the street as him.

“Unfortunately, no matter how much security you have in place, if someone presents a gun we recommend staff comply with the gunman.”

The Summerland Credit Union is providing full co-operation and assistance to the police.

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