A Melbourne pharmacist talks to AJP about the threats to burn down her pharmacy which ended in a siege
The Pharmacy Como was set to close in half an hour. It was 5.30pm on Monday, May 29, and pharmacist manager Lena Jiang was wrapping up the day’s work when a man came into the store.
“He came in with two heavy backpacks and a petrol can,” Ms Jiang told the AJP. “He came to the front counter and said, ‘I want money’.
“Initially I thought he was a mentally unwell patient, so I just said, ‘Is there anything else?’
“And he said, ‘I want money, I want to burn the pharmacy, I want to blow this up’ – and I smelled the petrol.
“I thought, ‘this is not a normal situation here!’ and he decided to open the can and said he wanted to light the petrol on fire.
“I told him, ‘you can have the money, take it’. But then I realised that money wasn’t what he was really interested in – he wanted to create a scene and do something harmful.”
Ms Jiang’s partner had planned to pick her up from work at 6pm, but fortunately, he’d arrived early.
“He heard everything, rushed out, grabbed the can and moved him outside the pharmacy.
“The man requested his backpack and petrol can back, and obviously we didn’t want to give it back to him until police came. While this happened I rang 000 and spoke to them, and then the man took out a really long knife.
“It escalated from there, and they were arguing; the man took his bag and left, and the police caught him around the corner.”
Police negotiated with the man for some time before obtaining a peaceful surrender.
Ms Jiang said that she was so shocked that she remained calm throughout the entire ordeal.
“It was just really scary because of all the bombings and fires lately around the world,” she told the AJP. “And I do feel pharmacy is more targeted at the moment. I used to think pharmacy was a very safe profession, but not so much at the moment.”
Ms Jiang said that her customers had been very supportive.
“I took three days off and everyone’s been coming in trying to check up on me,” she said. “People in the area are great.”
Stonnington Crime Investigation Unit detectives charged the man with attempted armed robbery, two counts of threats to kill, threats to damage property, assault with a weapon and use a controlled weapon without lawful excuse.