Suva: Fiji’s recently appointed police chief has displayed his crime-busting credentials in dramatic fashion, fighting off a gang of robbers at a Suva restaurant with just a folding chair.
Police boss Ben Groenewald said instinct kicked in during the incident last night, which left him with wounds requiring 13 stitches after one of the attackers hurled a wine bottle at his head.
Groenewald, a South African who took the Fiji job last year, said he was at a private function at the rear of the restaurant when he heard a commotion near the front.
Initially thinking “it was a drunken person”, the 5-year-old went to investigate and offer his help.
When I came around the corner I saw that these are not drunk people, these are robbers, fully masked and armed,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“The police instinct took over, I grabbed a folding chair and I attacked them. I was followed by some of the other guests and I think hat caught them (the robbers) by surprise.”
He said the five gang members, one of whom was wielding a machete, soon fled, but not before one threw a wine bottle at Groenewald’s head. “I’m patched up and I’m in the office this morning,” he told the Australian broadcaster, adding that his officers had already made a breakthrough in tracking down the perpetrators.
Groenewald is a career cop who served for more than 40 years in South Africa, where murder and other violent crimes are common, before accepting the role in the usually tranquil Pacific island nation.
Announcing Groenewald’s appointment in May 2014, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the leadership of such a vastly experienced officer would lift the professionalism of the entire police force.
Groenewald, who won praise last September for his handling of elections that restored democracy in Fiji, said there had been a string of robberies in Suva in recent months.
However, he said yesterday’s was the most brazen, taking place at a restaurant packed with 30 people, mostly women and expatriates.
“I hope that the success we can get out of this incident can end this spree of armed robberies,” he said. Groenewald, one-time personal bodyguard to former South African president PW Botha, said he would not recommend members of the public follow his hands-on approach to law enforcement.