The owners of a St Heliers dairy say they are living in fear after three brazen daylight robberies by the same man.
The male owner, who has injuries from a car accident, and his wife have been targeted by a man who has jumped the shop counter twice, pushed him to the ground, and stolen cigarettes.
At the second robbery at the dairy on Long Drive, the man had a younger accomplice with an orange coloured tattoo covering the right hand side of his face.
The robberies have not involved weapons, but the owner is terrified another robbery could escalate into violence involving weapons if the man is not caught by police.
The couple had owned the dairy for only a few weeks when a man, aged about 30, entered the shop on February 7 about 11am and asked for a bag of tobacco. When the female owner opened the tobacco cabinet, the man grabbed the bag and ran out of the shop.
At the time, her husband wondered if the man was casing the dairy. Following the second robbery, a local resident reported a man fitting the robber's description hanging about wearing a beanie and a backpack.
The day after the first robbery, the man returned about 10.30am with an accomplice in his early 20s, jumped the counter and pushed her to the ground.
The second man stuffed a bag with about $2000 worth of cigarettes. The robbers tried to open the till, but failed and fled the scene on foot.
The male owner, who was out of the back of the shop and on the phone to the police, said she saw the main robber who warned her not to do anything and keep quiet.
"Panic was going through my mind. I have never experienced a situation like this," said the owners, who had a feeling the robbers would return.
Last Wednesday, their worst fears were realised when the man, wearing a backpack, ran into the dairy about 6pm and jumped the counter, pushing the male owner to the ground. He was hurt in his back and backside.
On this occasion, fewer than 10 packets of cigarettes were in the cupboard and the robber failed a second time to open the till.
"He just gave up and ran," he said.
The couple are shaken by the three robberies, but not deterred from sticking with the business they took over in January. After speaking to police, they installed CCTV yesterday. They were also told to put a lock on the tobacco cupboard and make the shop more secure.
The woman said they were going to stop selling cigarettes, and that the Government should not be able to impose high taxes on tobacco.
"It encourages some types of low life to steal from small stores like dairies," she said.
Debbie Wallace, who owns a hairdressing salon next door to the dairy, is convinced the robber has targeted the couple because they are weak and small. The previous owner was mean and tough-looking and never got robbed, she said.
"They are absolute cowards," said Wallace.
She comforted the couple after the robbery involving both men, saying they were very upset and stayed with them until the man who owns a pizza shop on the other side of the dairy turned up for work, but they were still too frightened to re-open the shop.
"They are a lovely couple. I just hope they are going to be okay. They are just trying to make an honest living," she said.
Police said they are making inquiries following reports of two aggravated robberies at the dairy. One of the men is described as Maori or Pacific Islander. They urge anyone with information to contact them on 105.