Schoolboys bail up bank robber

By CRAIG McTEAR

JONATHAN Clare wasn't about to let a thief rip his mum off, and nor were his mates.

So when a crook fled from the bank with his mother's money, Jonathan, 17, and his two friends chased the robber for 800 metres and cornered him until police arrived.

The dramatic scenes unfolded at Park Beach Plaza on Thursday after mother-of-two Yasmin Van Haren withdrew $200 from the Westpac ATM at 2.58pm.

Jonathan was by her side and put the cash in her purse, but what they didn't know at the time was that someone was watching their every move.

Yasmin and Jonathan went into the bank where Yasmin filled out a cheque deposit slip, but Jonathan left her when he saw his two mates outside.

"Soon after, I felt a dark shadow. Someone was right up against my back," a still-shaken Yasmin said yesterday.

"The purse started to move from under my arm and I double-blinked. I spun around and this man was only two inches from me, with my purse.

"He ran instantly and I was screaming out 'help, you've got my money, give my money back'.

"The guy ran past Jonathan and his two mates and Jonathan heard me screaming. So did the whole car park. They ran after him and I kept running behind because I was worried about Jonathan.

"A couple in a car chased the man. The next thing I saw was the car stopped and the woman standing on the roof pointing out the flat where he'd gone to."

The offender had initially enjoyed a 20-metre start, so Jonathan kicked off his thongs and soon made up ground.

"He was quick," Jonathan said.

Yasmin became even more concerned when she learned Jonathan had caught up with him.

"Jonathan had him bailed up in a yard and screamed out 'I've got him'," she said.

Jonathan and the man exchanged words, but a nervous Jonathan backed off when the robber reached into his own pocket, giving him breathing space to dash into a nearby unit.

A trolley collector, the couple from the car, and Jonathan and his pals cut off the man's exit points while they waited for police to arrive.

"Everybody had been calling the police. I tried to, but I was shaking," Yasmin said.

"Security guys from Plaza management rushed to help, and plain clothes police arrived later.

"I went back to the bank and when I came out, police had the man handcuffed."

Police arrested him in San Francisco Avenue. They've recovered the purse but $50 is missing, along with Yasmin's house keys, car keys and driver's licence.

"I was really upset and traumatised. He was right in my face," she said.

"All I thought of was 'how dare you take my money'."

A Sandy Beach man, 29, pleaded guilty to stealing when he appeared in Coffs Harbour Local Court yesterday. Bail was set and he will reappear in court on August 1 for sentencing.



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