LynnMall robbery: Witness recounts sledgehammer-wielding thief's 'casual' exit from mall as bystanders watched and videoed

A witness to the brazen robbery of a cash exchange at Auckland's LynnMall on Sunday morning has described how numerous bystanders stood and videoed the scene, too fearful to intervene, as the thief "casually" left the mall with the stolen money.  

The man, who has not yet been found by police, smashed the glass window of the Western Union cash exchange with a sledgehammer - that had been concealed inside a cardboard box - before grabbing the cash register and emptying it, Waitematā CIB Detective Senior Sergeant Megan Goldie said to Newshub on Tuesday.  

"As he approached the shopping centre, he has pulled a balaclava over his face before using the sledgehammer to smash his way through the side window," Der Snr Sgt Goldie said. "Staff inside the store staff sheltered in the rear office. Thankfully, no one was injured, but Police acknowledge the incident was distressing for the workers involved."  

The robbery occurred in broad daylight at around 11:30am, with plenty of shoppers witnessing the crime, Rodney Wayne staffer Seema Deo Verma told AM on Wednesday.  

Recounting her experience, Verma said she and her colleagues first heard a "really loud banging noise", which led her to leave the hair salon to investigate. What she saw was a man wielding a "crowbar", later identified as a sledgehammer, "smashing at the windows" before throwing himself on the counter to grab the till.   

"He grabbed the cash register, grabbed the cash, and just left casually," Verma told AM. "Sundays are quite busy leading up to Christmas, so there were two [staffers] there - I'm pretty sure they must be quite shaken up."  

Verma said there were plenty of bystanders "just watching and taking videos" as the robbery unfolded, noting the thief did not seem particularly fearful of being caught.  

"You could not see any fear in him, he wasn't in a rush [thinking he was] going to get caught... it was quite a scary ordeal for staff," she continued. "There were plenty of people just watching and taking videos... you can't do much. I thought maybe some guys would go and tackle him down, but no, people were just watching. The guy could've been carrying a gun, you don't know."  

She added that one lady she believed was in her 60s or 70s pursued the man on foot, following him into the carpark where he jumped into a waiting getaway vehicle.   

"I just didn't want him to turn around and hit her... you never know what could happen."  

Verma added that in these instances, neighbouring employees are generally advised to stay put and close their doors until the danger has passed. She said while the ordeal was frightening for staff, particularly those at the targeted business, "you've still got to go to work".  

"You've got to go to work, you've got to survive... it's just part of working in a mall."  

Police are asking for anyone who may have dash-cam footage of the area between 11.15am and 11.45am on Sunday, November 12 to come forward.  

The vehicle was seen running a red light on Clarke Street and was last seen at the intersection of Clarke Street and Rankin Avenue.  

If you have information you can get in touch via the 105 phone service or online, using Update My Report, referencing file number 231112/9230. Information can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.  

Watch the video above.