FINGERED: Police arrest a man at Ballina Fair shopping centre yesterday after he failed to pay for fuel at a nearby service station.
FINGERED: Police arrest a man at Ballina Fair shopping centre yesterday after he failed to pay for fuel at a nearby service station. MARY MANN

Byron women caught up in police operation

WHEN Byron Bay women Shannon Van Derdraay and Sevegne Newton went to the movies at Ballina yesterday, the last thing they expected was to land in the middle of an undercover police operation.

Plainclothed officers swooped on Ballina Fair shopping centre about 1pm after a 22-year-old Queensland man, who was wanted by Queensland police for outstanding warrants, allegedly failed to pay for fuel at a petrol station at Ballina earlier in the morning.

Highway patrol officers at Tweed Heads had also unsuccessfully tried to stop the man about 1am yesterday. After allegedly stealing the petrol the man went to Ballina Fair, where a team of police officers made the arrest in front of curious onlookers.

Ms Van Derdraay said the man looked ‘menacing’, and the stack of alcohol bottles in the front seat had aroused her suspicions.

“We just thought we were having a girls’ day out,” she said.

“My heart is racing.”

The pair were returning to their car after watching The Women at the centre’s cinema when they heard a dog barking nearby.

They spotted a small pomeranian locked in a white Toyota Orion.

After telling centre management the dog looked over-heated, the women were confronted by the man, who insisted the dog was alright.

Just as the women said he should not keep the dog in the hot sun, a plain-clothed police officer ‘jumped out of nowhere and pointed a gun at him, yelling ‘Get down! Get down on the ground!’

“We just ran and hid behind a car,” Ms Newton said.

The man has been charged with failing to pay for fuel, having weapons and car theft, He will appear in Lismore Local Court today.


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