Police manhunt escalates
By CRAIG McTEAR
DETECTIVE Sergeant Scott Goodhand says police are closing in on armed bandits responsible for a string of hold-ups north of Coffs Harbour.
In the latest hit, three balaclava-clad men attacked a staff member at Aanuka Beach Resort early on Saturday (see story right).
In simultaneous raids early yesterday, Strike Force Whinmoor investigators swooped on houses in Korora, Sapphire and Grafton.
They seized 'a number of items' which have now been secured for examination, and took 'a number of people' to Coffs Harbour Police Station. They would not elaborate further.
"We see the execution of these search warrants as important to the progress of the investigation," Sgt Goodhand said.
"As we pull the picture together, we believe there are members of the public who can help us with our inquiries, and we urge them to come forward."
The first target for the daring robbers was Sapphire Fuels on October 20, followed by Pelican Beach Resort on Christmas Eve, and Nautilus Beach Resort on January 7 and January 31.
On each occasion, they used a screwdriver to threaten staff before fleeing into the night.
The assault at Aanuka Beach Resort has made detectives even more determined to capture the elusive trio.
"Apart from the close proximity of the robberies, the strike force is also investigating a number of other links between the offences," Sgt Goodhand said.
"The most significant of these is that the offenders escaped into the Sapphire residential area after a number of the offences. This suggests the offenders could live in that area.
"We are looking at similarities between all of the armed hold-ups and other serious offences in Coffs Harbour and Grafton."
Police have released computer images of the trio, based on descriptions supplied by their victims.
One of the men is described as aged 17 to 18, with a fair complexion, 170cm tall, with a thin build, wearing a hood.
Another is described as aged 17 to 18, Caucasian in appearance, with a tanned/ light complexion, 180cm tall, with a slim build and dark brown hair.
The other man at large is described as aged 22 to 23, 185cm tall, with a slim build, brown hair, with a jumper pulled over his lower face.
"We are asking members of the public, especially the residents of the Sapphire area, to contact Coffs Harbour detectives on 6652 0299 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if they can provide any information to assist the investigation," Sgt Goodhand said.