Gun hero wins praise of coroner

A BUSINESSMAN was yesterday praised by a coroner for tackling an alleged robber and snatching his pistol after a $1.3 million goldsmith's shop raid.

Coroner Rodney Venning commended John Lee Siu-man after he told the court how he confronted the suspect in North Point on February 15.

Mr Lee was testifying at an inquest into the death of a robber, whose identity remains a mystery. Police attempts to identify him from fingerprints failed because the man's hands were covered in glue.

The deceased, believed to be about 30 and a mainlander, was allegedly an accomplice of the suspect Mr Lee confronted.

Three men were arrested in connection with the robbery of the Emperor Gold and Jewellery Company on King's Road.

The inquest was told the suspect, believed to have been shot by police, died of a gunshot wound to the chest, with injuries to his heart and lung, before arriving at hospital.

Mr Lee told the court that on the day of the robbery he had parked his car near the goldsmith's shop and was about to close the door and leave with his two passengers when he was forced back into the vehicle at gunpoint.

The gunman climbed into the passenger seat, while the deceased and another person sat in the back.

The gunman pointed the pistol at Mr Lee's head and threatened to kill him unless he started the car.

A police officer on a motorcycle three to six metres in front of the car was warned to stay back, or Mr Lee would be shot.

The three suspects tried to get out of the car when the officer pointed his revolver at the vehicle, the inquest was told, but Mr Lee grabbed the gunman's right hand, pushing him on to the ground and snatching his pistol.

Mr Lee ran off and crawled under a lorry on the opposite side of the street. He then entered a building, but heard gunshots and a grenade explode outside.

Meanwhile, the suspects hijacked a lorry loaded with liquefied petroleum gas, driven by Chan Wai-lam.

Mr Chan was frightened when he heard gunshots and saw the windscreen shatter and he jumped out of the lorry after it bumped against a car and came to a halt.

Sergeant Tam Kwok-shing said he saw a person in the driver's seat of the lorry aiming a pistol at a police officer about three metres in front.

He fired two shots towards the person after hearing a gunshot.

The inquest was told one hand grenade was thrown from the driver's side window and exploded, injuring some police officers including Sergeant Tam.

The sergeant then fired two more shots at the gunman.

The deceased and two other men got out of the lorry after a pistol and another grenade, later found not to have been activated, had been thrown out. The deceased then collapsed.

A fourth man was later arrested nearby.

Salesman Tse Ka-fai told the inquest the deceased was one of two masked men who had escaped with gold jewellery from the shop that day.

Mr Tse had been hit on the head with a pistol after being unable to find the correct key for a security door.

The coroner's court was told three men were arrested and charged with offences including robbery and causing an explosion.

The hearing continues before a jury.