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London Free Press Business Section:


Five robberies linked

JOHN HERBERT, Free Press Reporter   2004-01-16 03:37:02  

A rash of south London robberies by what appears to be the same shotgun-toting man has police worried about what might happen if a store clerk or customer tries to play hero. Four businesses in the Wharncliffe-Wellington area have been held up since Dec. 30, including one -- the Beer Store at 414 Wharncliffe Rd. S. -- twice in two weeks.

The same person may be responsible for all five heists, police believe.

A hooded thief fled with cash after the latest robbery Wednesday at the store.

"What happens if a citizen walks in (on the next robbery) and starts to try to take control?'' Const. Paul Martin said yesterday.

"We're dealing with an unpredictable person. He's determined to get one thing and one thing only. If anything was to interfere with what he's there for, you don't know what might happen. The situation could go from a robbery and escalate to something else.

"You simply don't know the mindset of the person doing these robberies. That's what concerns police.''

Staff at the Beer Store declined comment yesterday. The store was also hit Dec. 30.

A man pointing a shotgun also robbed the Beer Store in a plaza at 1067 Wellington Rd., near the Keg Steakhouse, on Jan. 3. The KFC at 850 Wellington Rd., near Southdale Road, was held up Jan. 4 and the Scotiabank at 639 Southdale Rd. E., also near the Wellington-Southdale intersection, on Jan. 9.

All the robberies were between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Police say they have no suspect, but are studying surveillance-camera video- tape from one robbery.

Worrisome for police are the bold actions of the robber, having hit one store twice. But police aren't the only ones worried.

Just north of the Beer Store on Wharncliffe Road is the Upper Room Book Store and Source for Sports.

A spokesperson at the book store said it's concerned because it's nearby and closes nightly at about the same time as the heists have taken place.

Jerry Henry, co-owner of the sports store, said police visited the store several weeks ago, by coincidence, to explain how to react to a hold up.

"We have alerted everybody what to do,'' Henry said. "We're taking precautions, so hopefully nothing will occur."

Henry said the store is "kind of lucky" it had the briefing on handling a heist.

"The main thing is never confront the person and be sure to access as much information you can about the person so you can pass it on to police.''

Police say they have an excellent description of the suspect even though his face has been mostly covered by a scarf, balaclava or toque.

The suspect in the beer store robbery was wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt with a black coat overtop. He also had on gray jeans and gloves.

He's believed to be 20 to 29 years old, five-foot-six to five-foot-seven and 140 pounds. He was carrying a newer, light-coloured canvass bag with red handles and trim.

Police said they don't know how the robber has fled, including whether or not he relies on an accomplice with a nearby getaway vehicle.

The robberies

1. Dec. 30 The Beer Store at 414 Wharncliffe Rd. S.

2. Jan. 3 The Beer Store at 1067 Wellington Rd.

3. Jan 4 KFC at 850 Wellington Rd.

4. Jan 9 Scotiabank at 639 Southdale Rd. E.

5. Wednesday Beer Store at 414 Wharncliffe Rd. S. robbed again

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