$4M robbery turns sour when get-away car crashed, three arrested and money retrieved
TWO security guards of a private security firm have been hospitalized in a brutal $4million robbery incident that occurred in the heart of the city in broad daylight on Monday.
The masked robbers targeted cash from Westpac Bank that was taken out at around 10am, to be deposited in the Central Bank (CBSI).
The failed and dramatically senseless robbery occurred right in front of many onlookers, who witnessed one of the security officers’ wrists chopped off completely.
The escaped was short-lived when the get-away car crashed in West Honiara.
With quick community and police response, police later retrieved the two stolen boxes totaling $3.7million, and arrested three of the four suspects.
Some money was however stolen when one of the boxes was broken and one suspect escaped when the escaped-car they were in crashed at Kakabona, West Honiara.
The Solomon Star witnessed the broken box which has $1.3million left in it and the second box still intact with $2.3million.
The two security officers that were attacked are employees of private security firm Alert Protective Services (APS).
They were attacked as they wheeled the two boxes of hard cash out of the bank accompanied by a female bank officer.
The first security guard Harry Lilimae was attacked when he approached their vehicle with the first box.
Mr Lilimae told the Solomon Star he dodged onto the cash box to protect himself when he saw one of the robbers approached with a machete (knife) to attack.
“I fell onto the cash box and rolled helplessly onto the main road.”
The second security officer Michael Maelea who stepped out later with a second cash box said he panicked when one of the robbers jumped out from the flower beds in front of the bank with a knife aiming his head.
“I saw the knife coming towards my head; I had no choice but to defend it with my left arm while my right arm still clung onto the cash box. It was then that my left wrist was taken off completely and fell off separately.
“It was sheer luck that only my wrist was chopped off; it could have been my head,” Mr Maelea said.
He said despite that injury, his right arm never let off the cash box.
“That was when the attacker hack the knife on my elbow. I fell on the ground and pleaded for help.”
Asked if he identified the men, he said the men were masked and got him by surprise.
“All I saw was the men running towards a short car that was parked behind the security firm’s vehicle, and drove off.”
Three of the robbers were caught at Kakabona, West Honiara, half an hour later after a public and police chase.
The robbers escaped in a grey short boot car with a registration number plate MA 6097.
They were caught when their car wheeled off road, overturned and crashed into plants near a private home at Kakabona.
Report from eyewitnesses at Kakabona said three men emerged from the crashed car with knives and threaten to kill anyone that goes closer to them.
The three men got stoned and were chased by the Kakabona residents after police told them they were suspected robbers and that the money they stole should be in the crashed car.
The three made an attempt escape by foot but were caught when Kakabona residents and police gave them a chase.
Police retrieved the two boxes of money with the assistance of two locals at Kakabona.
However not all of the stolen money were retrieved as the fourth suspect reportedly managed to escape with some.
It was believed he ran away with some cash after he broke into one of the boxes.
Eye witnesses and police have confirmed one of the boxes was broken.
The amount missing cannot be verified as attempts by this paper to confirm with the bank was futile be yesterday since the bank was closed after the incident.
However it was believed the fourth suspect escaped with more than $200,000 in hard cash since eye witnesses said he was hanging a bag.
According to the police commissioner, approximately $4 million was the total amount of money in the two boxes.
Frank Prendergast yesterday confirmed that police had retrieved the two boxes and arrested three of the suspects.
He said three suspects are now in police custody while they are searching for the fourth.
“Police investigation is continuing, therefore he will not reveal any more details into the incident.”
However Prendergast thanked members of the public who work together with police to successfully apprehend the three and called on the public to continue to assist police in their hunt for the fourth suspect who was believed to be hiding in the hills behind Kakabona yesterday.
Prendergast thanked the community of Kakabona and the public for their support in the arrest of the three suspects and acknowledged his officers for the ‘fine job’.
According to a CID officer, the three suspects were Malaitans and were believed to be in their mid twenties.
Police however is tight lipped over any likely network between the robbers, security officers and bank staff in the robbery incident as investigations is continuing.
The incident has shocked the public and caused fear amongst many.
By DANIEL NAMOSUAIA