A pharmacist has praised the actions of a group of bystanders who intervened during an attempted armed robbery over the weekend
At around 8.30 on Sunday night, Alexandra Wakefield and her colleagues noticed a man dressed in black and wearing a balaclava enter the pharmacy on Marine Parade, Southport.
“I was in one of the dispensaries off to the side, and Vicki, one of the shop assistants, was at the front counter,” Ms Wakefield told the AJP. “He approached her and said something like, ‘this is a robbery,’ and she screamed and that caught my attention.
“I went over to her because I thought he’d want money and obviously drugs – usually it’s the pharmacist who has to deal with this sort of thing because we’ve got access to the safe.”
Ms Wakefield emptied the tills for the robber and after he told her that he had a gun and “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” he asked for methadone and the two moved towards the safe.
“He started rattling off names of drugs, and I directed him to the ones he wanted,” she says. “He had a huge bag, he was filling it and he kept rattling off more names. He was really pushing his luck, saying more cash, more methadone, more Valium – he was in there quite a while.
“One of the other staff members was pushing the panic button and calling police and the other was helping me out. We were quite calm – we just wanted him out of the shop as quickly as possible.
“He went to get the last bit of Valium that he wanted, and then he saw Viagra on the shelf and helped himself to that.”
By this time, two men who had been having pizza next door had entered the shop, and the robber saw them and attempted to hide his weapon – a water pistol.
“He crouched down and went to put the so-called gun under his shirt,” Ms Wakefield says. “As we noticed at the time, it was bright green and made of plastic, and he was trying to conceal that it was fake.
“That’s when he walked towards the two customers and said, ‘I’ve got a gun, get out of the way’.
“They said, ‘What are you doing, mate? That’s a fake gun’. They fully called his bluff. He tried to make a bolt for the front door and they restrained him. They were huge guys, the biggest males you could see.”
The two men – identified by 9 News as Andy David and Gerard Pashkevich – restrained the man and called out for something to use as makeshift handcuffs.
“I grabbed a cord and took it over to them and then the cops arrived,” Ms Wakefield says.
“I’d thought he was going to get away with it, and I was actually quite frustrated that people can do this sort of thing and get away with it. So watching him get tackled was just the best thing.
“They’d been at dinner at the pizza shop next door and noticed as he walked in that he was wearing a balaclava, and thought it looked pretty suss. They’d seen me emptying the tills of cash and knew something was not right. And their girlfriends were calling the police as well.
“I think once they saw the gun was probably fake, they had the confidence to help us, and they checked on all the girls to make sure we were okay.”
Ms Wakefield says the pharmacy staff were somewhat shaken, but nobody was hurt apart from one of the Good Samaritans, who injured his hand.
She advises other pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in similar situations to remain calm.
“Be aware where your panic buttons are, and if you don’t have them, install them,” she says. “We had them close to us and were able to press them.
“Definitely give them [robbers] what they want, and try to get them out as quickly as possible so that nobody gets hurt.
“Failing that, hopefully Fate will bring you two large muscly men to help!”