BRAZEN ARMED ROBBERY
By MARY MANN m firstname.lastname@example.org
POLICE across the region were last night still hunting two men who staged a brazen armed robbery at the Southern Cross Credit Union branch at Ballina Fair just before closing time yesterday afternoon.
One of the men, wearing a balaclava and carrying a duffle bag, shoved a pistol into the face of staff at the credit union about 3.30pm.
He ran from the shopping centre with several thousand dollars to where an accomplice was waiting in a getaway car. The car was later identified as being stolen in Queensland.
The robbery turned a Christmas shopping trip into a 'freaky' ordeal for 14-year-old witness Warren Coulter.
"I saw him running out of the shops, then a car pulled up and he jumped in," Warren recalled.
"The door was already open. "Then they drove off up the highway.
"It was freaky. The bag he was carrying looked full." At the time, Warren and his mum Clare Coulter were in their car, just about to drive home after buying Christmas presents at the shopping centre.
"I saw a woman who ran after him in the car park and I yelled out, 'Who are you%chasing?' And she said a guy had just robbed the bank."
Police said the car, a red Toyota Corolla sedan, was last seen heading north on the Pacific Highway.
Inspector Mick Dempsey said police were reviewing closed circuit television footage of the area in a bid to identify the men.
A shop assistant from House, directly across from the credit union, said she knew something was wrong when she heard the security shutters close.
"I used to work in a bank so as soon as I heard the bang, I knew something was wrong," she said.
"I saw the man, he had a full balaclava on with only his nose and eyes showing.
"He was carrying what looked like a gun and he had a black bag. As soon as the shutters closed, seconds later he was running outside. He took the balaclava off when he was running to his car outside."
The shop assistant, who did not wish to be named, said people had gathered around the credit union after they heard the bang of the security shutters closing.
"Everyone wanted to know what was going on," she said. Last night police said they were looking for a 20 to 30-year-old Caucasian man, about 180cm tall and of medium build with sandy brown hair, wearing dark pants and a light striped shirt.
A large man of Aboriginal appearance was believed to be driving the getaway vehicle.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Ballina police on 6681 8699 or Crime Stoppers on 1800.333.000.