On-lookers accused of taking loot

PEDESTRIANS are believed to have stolen gold ornaments worth as much as $80,000 dropped by robbers fleeing from a North Point jewellery shop hold-up on Monday.

One robber was shot dead and three alleged accomplices were arrested after the raid on the Emperor Gold and Jewellery Company in busy King's Road.

Police said after the shootout that all the stolen jewellery had been recovered.

But shop staff who later went to the North Point police station to identify the loot reported that about a tenth of the 200 taels of ornaments worth about $800,000 was missing.

But police late last night said $33,000 worth of ornaments was unaccounted for.

The shop, in the Metropole shopping centre at 430 King's Road, remained closed yesterday and manager Mr Kong Kim-fai said staff were conducting a stock check to determine the loss.


Mr Kong said the robbers might have dropped some jewellery on the street from display trays they were holding when they escaped, as they did not put all the loot in bags.

''It is probable that the dropped jewellery might have been picked up by some passers-by,'' he said.

The shop is in a busy neighbourhood and dozens of pedestrians were nearby when the lunchtime raid occurred.

Mr Kong said security at the shop was adequate and the store had only been raided once since it opened in 1982.


More surveillance cameras had been installed following an incident last May and display cases had been redesigned on the advice of an insurance company to make it harder for robbers to get large amounts of jewellery at one time, he added.

''The insurance company also suggested we install an electronically controlled door. But we decided not to because we believed it would more likely deter customers than robbers,'' said Mr Kong, adding that most of the jewellery shops nearby did not have such equipment.


There are at least five gold shops along King's Road between Kam Ping Street and North Point Road.

Mr Kong said the company was satisfied with the existing security and there were no plans to change it.

''We have also briefed our staff that during a robbery they should be co-operative with the robbers for the sake of their safety and then report to police as soon as the robbers have gone,'' he said.


One of his seven employees, Mr Tse Ka-fai, was pistol-whipped during Monday's raid by a robber who got angry after being prevented from grabbing the jewellery quickly.

Business in Kam Ping Street returned to normal yesterday, although some shop-owners had to repair signboards or display windows damaged by bullets during the shootout.

Meanwhile, one of the three policemen injured by a grenade thrown by the fleeing robbers spent a second night in hospital yesterday.


Constable Leung King-ming, 32, was in satisfactory condition in Queen Mary Hospital after undergoing an operation to remove shrapnel from his legs and arms.

A police source said: ''He is quite lively and it looks like he could be out in a few days.'' The two other constables have been treated and discharged.

Police last night charged the three arrested men with robbery. They will appear in Eastern Court today.