Armed robbers carried out a smash-and-grab raid in Hamilton jewellery and luxury goods store yesterday.
Two raiders, one armed with what appeared to be a handgun, rode into the Washington Mall and smashed display cases at the shopping centre’s Gold Standard shop just after it opened.
Staff at nearby businesses later revealed that they had locked their doors and that some terrified mall users dived for cover as the drama unfolded.
Staff at Dodd’s barbershop, on the mall’s exterior walkway on the Washington Lane side, revealed that they heard the bike travel past the shop before it was parked directly outside their door inside the mall.
One said: “I nearly had a heart attack. I said, ‘something’s about to happen, we need to lock the doors!’ As soon as we saw them get off the bike, we heard footsteps running down the hall.”
A colleague added: “We knew there was something going on.
“We were looking out, the next thing we heard ... it sounded like gunshots, but it could have been smashing the glass.
“We turned the lights off and locked the doors. It was less than two minutes they were there.
“The first one ran out and the other fella turned round the bike then they jumped on.”
A police spokesman said that the robbers entered the eastern entrance of the mall on a white, Scoopy-style bike.
He explained: “They parked their bike at the entrance and they made their way down the corridor to Gold Standard.
“They immediately went in there and started smashing the display cases and grabbing jewellery.”
He added that two members of staff, one in a back room, were in the shop at the time and that a pistol was brandished, but not fired. There were no injuries.
Police said the men escaped through the mall and rode off along Church Street with “an unknown quantity” of jewellery.
Another witness said two customers at a business near Gold Standard “came running out” after the raid began.
She added: “They said they heard gunshots.
“They were going to go look, but we ended up keeping them in and closing the door.”
The woman said that the customers later realised the noises they heard were “banging on the glass” at the gold exchange.
She added: “Most people were hiding. Some people were confused, some people were like, ‘what’s happening?’”
Employees at other businesses said they were stunned when they heard a vehicle on the walkway above Washington Lane.
Some claimed that one of the men could be seen with what looked like a firearm before the robbers entered the building.
One witness said: “It was so fast, but you could tell it was a gun because of the way it looked.”
Another worker added: “We were standing here talking, then we just saw this white bike come zooming down. I didn’t even think about where they were going ... I knew it was a robbery. I said, ‘oh flip! They’re going to kill somebody’.”
Another woman said: “They were calm, they didn’t yell anything, they knew what they were doing. It’s brazen and it’s also scary.”
A senior police officer yesterday reassured the public and said that “significant resources” had been committed to the investigation.
Detective Superintendent Nicholas Pedro said that the first suspect carried what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun.
He added the second had an unidentified tool that was used to break display cabinets in the store. Mr Pedro said: “We recognise that this incident will likely prompt fear in law-abiding members of the community, who either witnessed the incident first hand or found out about it by other means.”
He added: “While Bermuda has not been immune to acts of violence or the use of firearms, this robbery strikes at the heart of our sense of safety as law-abiding citizens go about their daily business.
“This type of criminality cannot be allowed to go undetected.”
Mr Pedro added that police needed public help to solve crime.
He said: “The offenders on this motorcycle are known to someone whether it’s your son, your daughter, your nephew, niece, boyfriend or girlfriend.
“Members of the community should, rightfully, be outraged. Help us to make our island safer and call the investigative team.”
Mr Pedro, in charge of the crime division, added that routine patrols would be altered to take city shopping areas into account, but officers would also continue “a vigilant watch on those areas traditionally blighted with gang tensions and violence”.
He said that the staff who were in Gold Standard at the time were “shaken” and police had offered “specific reassurance”.
A City of Hamilton spokeswoman added: “The City of Hamilton has reached out to the affected business to lend support after what must have been a very harrowing experience for the employees.
“This brazen behaviour underscores the need for businesses, especially those with cash on hand, to conduct a thorough security audit of their premises and ensure that they have taken every safety measure to lessen the probability of a crime of this nature and ensure the wellbeing of their staff.”
Reported sightings of the suspects were later made in areas of Pembroke and Devonshire, including Woodlands Road, Dock Hill and North Shore Road near Black Watch Pass.
One of the men was said to be 5ft 10in to 5ft 11in and wore a black and grey jacket and black pants.
The other was said to be 6ft to 6ft 1in and wore a black jacket and black pants.
One carried a black tote bag and the other had a blue knapsack. Both men wore gloves, dark helmets with tinted visors and black sneakers.
Anyone with information should call Detective Inspector Kenten Trott on 717-2345 or the confidential Crime Stoppers hotline on 800-8477. Mr Trott can also be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org