Bowling Bandits Meet the Jacks!


tags: NSW Police, Police Rescue, Armed Robbery,

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By Detective Sergeant Aaron B. Power

From the March 2013 issue of the APJ

The Witching Hour

The villains in this case study had done it many times before - it was their profession. They looked upon an armed robbery like the average man looked upon a job. They worked together, trusted each other explicitly, and when they failed they paid the price in prison together. These thoughts were in their minds as they prepared to pounce on the staff at the Taren Point Bowling Club, in Southern Sydney. It was the end of trading on 10 January, 2010 and the tills were brimming with cash. They knew that the staff and patrons would either be too tired or too intoxicated to resist. They had made a number of reconnaissance circles of the club and there was no sign of security guards or the police. The time to act was now!

The Invisible Man and the Balaclava Bandit

Earlier that night the bowling club supervisor, Nathan Buhagiar, estimated that he had two hours to go before the club closed at 11.00pm. It was a fairly quiet time for the club with only about 30-40 patrons moving around. Most were amusing themselves buying drinks and using card machines. Mr Buhagiar finalised the tills and started to prepare for final closing. In the 45 minutes this took, all but 12 of his patrons had left.

About 10.12pm he was sitting with a group of patrons when one of them looked around and said: “I think we’re in trouble here!” Turning towards the front door he was in time to see two males run into the club. The first was wearing all black and a black balaclava. He was carrying a small, black-and-blue back pack. The second was wearing a long-sleeved dark athletic shirt and, like Claude Rains off the 1933 movie set of The Invisible Man, had a white bandage-style cloth wrapped around his face. The invisible man was holding a black semi-automatic pistol in his right hand. The Balaclava Bandit yelled,“Get on the floor! Get on the floor!” Soon after all of the patrons prostrated themselves on the floor.

The invisible man demanded to know who the club manager was. Nathan Buhagiar stood up and the invisible man pointed the pistol at him and demanded access to the Manager’s Office. Mr Buhagiar walked slowly towards the office making sure not to make any sudden moves. Brian Morton, the Cellarman for the club, could see that one of the patrons, Andrew Wolstenholme, was using his mobile phone to call Triple Zero (000). To obscure the bandit’s view of Andrew as he made the call, Brian Morton moved in front of Andrew. When Andrew Wolstenholme finally got onto the police he was able to utter the words: “Robbery in progress at Taren Point Bowling Club, Holt Road, Taren Point.” By this time it was 10.13pm. As he was making the call, Andrew Wolstenholme could hear the bandit in the manager’s office screaming out: “Give me the money! Give me the money! Give me the f___ing money!”

At this point the Balaclava Bandit went to the safe and frantically tried to open it. He was unsuccessful due to the fact that Nathan Buhagiar had already locked it after he had secured the day’s floats. Nathan was standing in the doorway when the Balaclava Bandit directed him to immediately unlock the safe. After Nathan unlocked it, the Bandit grabbed the tills and upended their contents into a black bag ...

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