29 Oct 2008

Bomb hoax at school linked to bank robbery

6:22 am on 29 October 2008

Police say abomb hoax at a Whangarei secondary school may have been intended as a decoy for a bank robbery in the city.

Police say an ANZ branch in Whangarei was robbed on Tuesday morning, and they suspect the hoax call may have been intended to distract them from the robbery.

More than 400 students from Tikipunga High School, along with children from Forest View kindergarten next door, were evacuated to nearby sports fields.

A school spokesperson says police told the school they had received an anonymous call saying three bombs had been planted at the school buildings. Students and children were allowed back after several hours.

Police are looking for witnesses to the robbery at the bank's Rathbone Street branch at 11.45am - 50 minutes after the hoax bomb call.

Inspector Paul Dimery says the robber handed a note to a teller, was given cash and left in a taxi with a female companion. The taxi driver is being questioned.

Mr Dimery says the robber was Maori, of chubby build, in his early 20s, with scruffy facial hair, and was wearing a grey or white hoodie.

He says that, despite the bomb hoax, police had enough staff left in the city centre to respond quickly to the robbery.