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Police chief injured confronting robbers

Tuesday 26 May 2015 | Published in Regional


SUVA – Four men have appeared in court in Fiji over an attack on the country’s Police Commissioner last week.

The men, all in their twenties, have been charged with six counts of aggravated robbery, one count of act with intent to cause grievous harm and theft of a motor vehicle.

Fiji’s police boss Ben Groenewald is being hailed as a hero after confronting the men and receiving a serious injury requiring 13 stitches while trying to stop the armed robbery at a restaurant and wine shop in the capital Suva.

Police Chief of Intelligence and Investigations ACP Henry Brown says five masked men who were armed stormed the premises and threatened staff just before 8pm demanding cash from the till and valuables from patrons.

He says Groenewald, who was coincidentally at the scene, stepped forward and said that he was the Commissioner of Police and asked the five masked robbers to stop what they were doing.

Groenewald was wounded as a result of the robbery.

He said in an interview later that he acted as any policeman in his shoes would do.

Groenewald, a South African who took the Fiji job last year, said he was at a private function at the rear of the restaurant, known as Distill, when he heard a commotion near the front.

Initially thinking “it was a drunken person”, the 65-year-old police veteran went to investigate and offer his help.

“When I came around the corner I saw that these are not drunk people, these are robbers, fully masked and armed,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I was thrown at by a full bottle of wine and it hit me in the middle of the head – the injury was serious but not severe,” Groenewald said.

“I received 13 stitches and after I was stitched up I’m back in office – in fact I was already back in office Friday morning,” he said.

“The injury was of serious nature and for that I got proper medical treatment and I’m back in the office,” he added saying instinct kicked in during the incident last Thursday night.

Distill general manager retail, Jodi Bacchiochi Chang, said: “Where the commissioner was sitting, he could not see what was happening but he stood up and came to the front when he heard the commotion.

“He told them ‘I am the Police Commissioner, please leave’.”

Chang said the robbers responded by throwing bottles and a rock at the commissioner and another guest before fleeing empty-handed in a taxi.