Sample P.N.G. Gossip Newsletter (4)

PNG Gossip Newsletter Meri Milne Bay
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Welcome to the Sample Papua New Guinea Gossip Newsletter. Another sample is here
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A look at some of the news items (and gossip) from around Papua New Guinea in recent weeks.

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What was reported whilst the robbery was still in progress

The latest gossip is that rascals have stolen a Pacific Helicopter company helicopter and landed at the PNG Banking Corporation building in downtown Port Moresby - now was that to make a deposit at the bank?

The police were tipped off and a gun fight that followed saw the helicopter crash near the Internal Revenue Building (IRC - Tax Office) - Umm lets see they were going to pay tax on any money they stole??

Crashed Helicopter by Ben Warner Picture by Ben Warner
Click on image for full size photo
Note the bullet hole in the bottom right side of vehicle window.

A backup boat was supposedly also waiting at the downtown wharf.

The rascals all dressed up in army uniforms are still in the building. (lunchtime PNG time)

Now is that good gossip or what. It will be interesting to see how much is actually true when the news reports come out..

This was reported by a reader the next day

Hi everyone this is an update I have received on the recent helicopter holdup of the PNG Banking Corporation (PNGBC) building in downtown Port Moresby. It makes very interesting reading and unfortunately I was not able to get any photographs although the local television station had many shots. Umm shots, yep there were many shots flying by. Not sure if that was police fire or from the robbers. Here is the story. I'm not sure if the contributor wants to be remain anonymous or not so I have deleted his name for now.

Start Report

Terry says you already have the pictures and story on the web. (Editor: Story tasol - but not as good as the one you have reported below. The picture from Ben Warner came later)

There may be a few things here that agree or disagree with your info. On the basis that all info is useful, the following is sent. Some has come from various sources and on site witnesses.

I am assuming you may have more than a passing interest in this little episode from the land of the unexpected. It would have to represent the pinnacle of PNG criminal activity, being the most complex and well organized attempt at a crime I can recall in my years here.

We were all in the workshop as it unfolded, but did not get into the story until the chopper had landed on the roof. Two of our guys were down at BSL across the road, one was in PNGBC and Eileen's sister was in the canteen.

As well I have now talked with the assistant manager Robin and someone who was in Deloittes Tower, the new building which overlooks the roof of the PNGBC.

It seems at least one guy was still in the PNGDF, perhaps most of them. One was wearing a SECURIMAX uniform pants so may have been with them. Initially they all wore camo gear and balaklava's, looking very much like the classic crook.

Seems there were five of them and the police were at least partly in on the whole plot. There were extra police in plainclothes inside the bank - PNGBC head office, but it seems they did not come in contact with the crims until much later. From what I heard, I have some doubts about this and this part of the story may have been added later to improve the image and add extra ability to the police intelligence units. A 4WD appears to be missing from Murray Barracks and has not yet been located. The helicopter was from Pacific Choppers (poor Mal Smith - another one of his choppers gone) and was legally booked about a week prior to Fridays exercise.

The story (as best as can be determined) goes like this........

Last week a booking was made by some village group in Gari village down the coast a few miles to get a 206 to fly down and do some transport (probably food inland as this happens all the time). A Filipino pilot was booked for the job. On Wednesday or Thursday a 4WD Army jeep was taken from Murray Barracks and just did not come back when it was supposed to.

Friday somewhere between first light and 9am the chopper flew to Gari and was taken over when it landed. It appears two crims were waiting for it to arrive and then jumped out of the bushes and took over at gunpoint. These guys were all well armed, had M16's, grenades and plenty of ammo clips ready to go. We contacted someone who remembered hearing and seeing a chopper flying from the NW and heading for the Baruni Dump about 0950, probably a bit later. Around 1050 the 4WD turned up at the front entrance of the bank, three guys leaped out and went inside. They sprayed some of the tellers windows with M16 fire on auto (but the slugs did not go through the bullet proof glass). They took several bags of cash and then went up stairs. Meanwhile the chopper landed on the canteen roof and at least two guys went down the drainpipes and into the upper floors.

Security there is minimal, we went through it all last week to put in a new data link. The guys from the roof were spotted and a report managed to get back to the police very quickly. The money grabbers worked their way upstairs, a few people may have been knocked about, but no-one died and met the top team (maybe on the second floor).

I think they must have handed over the cash and then gone back downstairs to try for more or to escape by road in the 4WD. This seems to be where it all came unstuck. Because of the early warning (via a good radio network from Pacom) and the police being on their edge after their chopper was shot up, a very quick response was made. The guys that came out of the bank on the ground were met and attacked in force. Word is they made it to the vehicle but the police just surrounded it and blazed away until they had finished off everything they had available. I don't think they had any intentions of letting them live.

Meanwhile the two guys with the cash had managed to get back to the roof and clambered back into the chopper. Somewhere here they appear to have emptied their mags at the police below, but it seems they did not hit anyone. One of our guys across the road in the BSP bank saw them give the big thumbs up signal while they were sheltered from the police below by the building walls. The chopper took off straight into a hail of slugs from the police on the street and headed towards the wharf. It seems that the machine was badly enough hit to be unable to fly off (police later claimed that a marksman had shot the tail rotor) and the pilot managed a great feat of flying to be able to crash it just behind Revenue Haus on the Port road. It landed on the road and looks like it may have rolled once. The whole rotor boom is broken a couple of times and the cabin is smashed around badly. Worse than mine by a long way. Anyway the pilot lived and there was suggestions that two guys ran off towards a boat.

I don't think they managed to get too far before the police caught up with them and started shooting again. Two were killed outright and the other one was "recovered". he was shoved into a paper trash container (mesh cage) and could be seen on TV to be knocked about pretty badly, whether from the crash or otherwise we don't know. I'd say the impact would have been enough, it seems amazing that anyone could have run far after that sort of impact.

Anyway, that was the end of that. The police took the last guy away (maybe the sixth) and as he headed off to hospital he was stupid enough to say he was responsible for shooting up the police chopper. I don't think this was particularly smart ! Anyway, he arrived at the hospital dead.

So the good guys win and the bad guys, who the Police Commissioner later said, "had tried the robbery of the millennium", were all dead. I gather the money was recovered as well.

Guess the crooks now realise that a chopper doesn't make all that much difference - they are easy enough to shoot down with a bit of effort.

Hope this is an interesting story, we had radios on most channels and managed to integrate the whole event reasonably well. I think the police did a great job even though they were waiting for something to happen. Despite the story being put around that they knew who and when and where, this does not gell really well with how much of the robbery went off before there was any response. As far as police inside the building, I don't buy that.

They later found a grenade on the roof and an M16 inside the bank with a handful of clips. At least two people were also found inside after the bank had supposedly evacuated it. They may have been not who they claimed to be. One was from ACP building services ???

All up the bank handled it pretty well, good comms, well rehearsed evacuation and follow up.

Within an hour all other banks were closed and the ATM's all shut down. Westpac followed suite and I gather other banks also closed for the rest of the day. Tough on people who wanted cash for the weekend tho' Seems there were at least three other opportunistic robberies soon after, a couple in Boroko and another at Mobil Badili. Not linked I would imagine, just the usual grab for weekend groceries.

At the end of it all, traffic in town was clogged for two hours, mainly due to police vehicles, but everything was cleared out by 1400. Our guys reckon there was a thousand police there by the end of it all. Hard to believe, but everyone was there ! (ed - except me!)

Good story from Boroko where they are organizing the Y2K emergency and disaster centre. The AUSAID consultant was talking to one of the top brass about the coming problems. Obviously the officer could talk and listen to the radio at the same time as he suddenly said "got to go" raced to doorway, grabbed his bag and left. Hanging out of each end of his sports bag was an M16. I guess they were all on edge, just waiting for something to happen.

They dumped the chopper on a truck this morning (Saturday), it was seen being taken back to Pacific at the airport I suppose. Lots of bullet holes seen in the fuselage by the observer of this.

Cheers, Happy Christmas (for some anyway)



End Report

Wow, thanks for that, most of it is how I heard it. I am not sure how the helicopter pilot survived but the TV station had him looking almost 100% okay after his ordeal. The others shown on TV were most definitely the worse for wear.

The TV station seemed to imply that the helicopter was hijacked from the airport but I suppose we'll all know more when the newspapers come out on Monday.


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Created 17 Dec 1999
Updated 21 Feb 2001
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