Pokie thief causes school lock down

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A 25 year old man has been arrested in Nelson this morning after assaulting a security guard at the Work and Income office and then heading to the Wakatu Hotel where he pushed a customer off his chair in the pokie room and stole his money.

The man — wearing a camouflage polarfleece top, black track pants and gumboots — was reported to have assaulted a security guard as he was leaving the Work and Income office on Bridge St, shortly before 11.30am.

While police officers were trying to locate the man, police received a call to the Wakatu Hotel. There, the man is said to have shoved a patron to the ground and then pushed collect button on the his pokie machine as he lay on the ground, before taking the money from the tray of the machine. He is believed to have escaped on a bicycle to the Victory area, causing the local primary school to go into “lock down”.

Victory Primary School principal Helen Taylor-Young says the school was in lock down for around ten minutes. “They [police] called and said that there was an offender in the area and to lock the school down, which we can do quite quickly,” says Helen. “They called us back shortly after when they caught him.”

Francis Monopoli, of the Wakatu Hotel, says staff didn’t see the incident but were alerted to the theft by the man who was pushed.

“The staff were in the other room serving. The guy just ran in and ran away again,” he says.

The man was arrested about midday in the Kawai St area, say police.