19 June, 2018

Self-defence in the News - No. 111

Shopkeeper scares off armed robber

18 June 2018

By Tom Kitchin

Old Town Store owner Utia Lafita holds the saucer she used to scare off a would-be robber. Photo: Tom Kitchin

Cromwell dairy owner Utia Lafita says she was not afraid during  an attempted armed robbery at her shop in Old Cromwell on Friday night, she was just "very, very angry".

"I don’t know what happened. The people here are very friendly, this was just out of the blue."

About 8pm on Friday,  Mrs Lafita, the owner of Old Town Store in Achil St, was minding her shop when a male dressed in dark clothing and wearing a balaclava walked in.

"He was covered from head to toe, it was only his eyes I could see. As a human being, I thought he was just very cold."

Mrs Lafita (64) assumed he was going to buy something, as he walked over to the chocolates at one side of the counter and began to stare at them.

"Less than a minute later, he turned around and said ‘Give me your money’."

She saw what looked like a gun in his hands.

"I leant over the counter and said ‘What?’. My heart was bubbling."

Mrs Lafita tried to find something to throw at him, but all she had at the counter was a small saucer.

"I held [the saucer] up and he ran out and around the corner."

Mrs Lafita was uninjured and did not give the man any money.

But she could not work out how to use her phone. Luckily, her daughter arrived about 10 minutes later and called the police.

Mrs Lafita said her family had been in Cromwell for three years and this was the first kind of robbery she had witnessed.

She thanked the Cromwell community for their support.

"The next morning,  I opened up the shop and the first person was so upset and unhappy and asked what happened."I feel so honoured. They feel what I’ve been through. They are caring people."

A police spokeswoman said the man could have been holding a small firearm or an imitation firearm.

• Cromwell police  (03) 445-1999; Crimestoppers  0800 555-111.

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