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Update: Further Arrests Following Aggravated Burglary In Whakatāne

Inspector Nicky Cooney, Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander:

A further two people have been arrested today in relation to an aggravated burglary at a Michael Hill jewellery store in Whakatāne yesterday afternoon.

Four people fled the scene in a vehicle yesterday following the burglary. Police spiked the vehicle they were travelling in, which stopped on Stanley Road following a pursuit.

Two men, aged 20 and 21, were arrested at the scene, while the two other men in the vehicle, aged 21 and 22, fled on foot into steep bush

Because of the dangerous topography and concerns for their safety, a large-scale search was launched, involving Police staff, a dog unit and Search and Rescue teams. With daylight running out, the Police Eagle helicopter was tasked from Auckland. The helicopter was equipped with a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera, night vision equipment, and a spotlight.

Despite the significant search effort, the pair weren’t located.

That changed, at 7:54am today, when a person called Police to report two men walking through a paddock off State Highway 2 in Taneatua.

As Police arrived, the men again fled on foot into bush. Despite them crossing a river, a Police dog unit tracked their scent and led officers to where the men were hiding.

One of the men was treated at the scene for a dog bite.

Police have since charged all four men with aggravated burglary. They appeared in the Whakatāne District Court this morning and were remanded in custody to reappear on Wednesday 22 May.

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The public have played a significant role in this successful result, and we want to extend our appreciation to members of the community for their assistance and the information they provided. The community has played a key part in helping us resolve this so quickly.

The staff at Michael Hill also deserve a huge amount of praise for their response to such a traumatic event. We understand the effect this will have on them, and they are being offered support.

Coincidentally, it was only days ago our Prevention Manager and Area Investigations Manager visited each jewellery store in Whakatāne to understand what plans they had in place for incidents like this.

Those conversations included discussing staff safety, exit plans, and the process of calling Police if their store was a subject of an attack. We also outlined our response to these retailers to help them understand the process in those situations.

The response planning by both Police and retailers worked really well and that result was shown yesterday, despite no-one expecting to action those plans so soon.

I am also proud of the efforts of our Police staff, who swiftly detained two suspects, and embarked on a search for two more people in hazardous bushland.

We understand this was an unsettling and distressing incident, but this incident shows the lengths we will go to protect our community.

We would still like to hear from anybody who witnessed the incident or may have video footage from the incident. If you can assist, please 105, or make an online at 105.police.govt.nz, using “Update Report”. Please reference the file number 240502/9091.

As this case is before the courts, Police are unable to comment further.

© Scoop Media

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