Police hunt for knifing suspect
A POLICE manhunt is under way to find the suspected perpetrator of the knife attack on three men inside the Coffs Harbour Hotel last night.
Still on the run, the suspect is accused of stabbing a 34-year-old man in the chest with a short-bladed knife.
Police say he then slashed two other men, aged 27 and 23, who tried to hold him back before fleeing into Grafton Street.
The incident happened in the hotel’s poker machine room about 6.10pm.
Coffs Clarence Crime Manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay has appealed to the public to help detectives arrest the attacker.
“It was a callous attack and police cannot establish a motive at this stage. A particularly cowardly and despicable act,” Insp. Lindsay said.
“Hopefully, anyone who knows this person will come forward with information on his whereabouts,” he said.
Hotel staff say closed-circuit security vision showed the suspect walk into the hotel’s gaming room and exchanged words with the 34-year-old man as he was seated in front of a poker machine.
The offender is then seen to produce what appears to be a pocket knife, using it to stab the man in the upper chest seconds after he rose from his seat.
The two other men intervened in the altercation.
They sustained their injuries while attempting to restrain the armed man.
The 27-year-old man suffered a deep laceration to his right hip.
Ambulance paramedics treated the 23-year-old man for a cut to his chest.
Witnesses said the offender fled through the side door onto Grafton Street before running across the Pacific Highway.
Police established a crime scene at the hotel, and all three stabbing victims were treated at Coffs Harbour Hospital.
Patron Scott Budden went to the aid of one victim, a man he knows, immediately after the attack.
“He said ‘I’ve been stabbed’ and I noticed a deep wound to his hip.
“His mate was hunched over with a cut to the chest and had blood all over the front of his shirt,” Mr Budden said.
Coffs Harbour Hotel publican Marty Phillips said bar staff served the suspect only one drink prior to the attack.
“It was a random attack that happened by chance in our hotel,” Mr Phillips said.
The incident is yet another blow to the Coffs Hotel’s reputation, which in November was lifted from a list of the state’s most violent pubs.
“It’s another headache for us. We do our best to provide a safe environment for our patrons, but this was just a one-off incident and we can only hope the police catch him and he gets his just deserts when he is dealt with by the courts.
“We place a lot of trust and faith in people when they walk through our doors."
He said the man had been a regular visitor to the hotel in recent weeks.
“He’s come in over the past six to eight weeks, mostly of a morning having a couple of drinks and playing poker machines.
“It just goes to show you never know who you’re dealing with and what frame of mind they might be in,” he said.
Investigations have found the suspect had also been drinking at nearby pubs earlier.
He is described as Caucasian in appearance, aged in his mids-20s, 185-190cm tall, of solid build, with short, light brown and blonde hair with a flat-top haircut, shaved on the sides.
He was wearing a red collared shirt with white, black and gold horizontal stripes, camoflauge knee-length shorts and black Nike brand thongs.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.