A group of armed robbers posing as customers robbed The Scoin Shop in the Walmer Park Shopping Centre in Port Elizabeth of hundreds of thousands of rands in cash and rare coins during a daring heist inside the busy centre yesterday.
Just 15 minutes later, two men attempted to rob a shop inside the Cleary Park Shopping Centre in the northern areas.
The Walmer robbery went largely unnoticed until shoppers alerted surrounding stores that Scoin employees were lying on the floor of the store.
According to witnesses, two well dressed men, one in a suit, held the two employees inside the shop hostage while emptying a safe.
Sources close to the investigation said both robbers had been armed and escaped with between R500 000 and R600 000 in money and rare coins, including Kruger rands.
A number of workers in the centre expressed concern about security, claiming that guards had come “strolling by” when alerted to the robbery.
Most of the shoppers were unaware of the drama until police arrived.
A car guard said he had seen two men getting into what looked like a blue Toyota Corolla, and thought there may have been two more people inside the vehicle.
This is the third time a Scoin Shop has been robbed in Port Elizabeth.
In 2012, the same store was robbed of hundreds of precious coins.
A year later, a gang robbed the branch in the Greenacres Shopping Centre and escaped with rare coins worth more than R1.5-million.
Staff from a shop near Scoin said two men had been browsing inside their shop before the robbery.
Centre manager Leonie Scheepers said the two robbers had bought an item at Mr Price before the robbery.
She contradicted claims by witnesses, saying security guards had been “in pursuit” and one robber had fired a single shot at them.
Atlas Security operations manager Monty Montgomery said while the company did not protect the Scoin shop, staff in neighbouring shops had pressed panic buttons.
“Two employees inside the shop were held at gunpoint while the two robbers emptied out the safe,” Montgomery said.
Within 15 minutes of that robbery, two men, one with a knife and another with a gun, tried to rob Street Fever in the Cleary Park Shopping Centre.
Montgomery said a customer inside the shop had managed to disarm one of the robbers. The man was arrested. The other suspect is still at large. Police said two cases of armed robbery were being investigated.