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Manhunt on for robber who fled with S$2,000 from Western Union’s Ubi outlet

SINGAPORE — A police manhunt has been launched after an employee at a Western Union branch in Ubi was threatened at knifepoint yesterday to hand over more than S$2,000.

Manhunt on for robber who fled with S$2,000 from Western Union’s Ubi outlet

After a three-day manhunt, the robber (L) who fled with more than S$1,000 after allegedly threatening an employee at a Western Union branch in Ubi at knifepoint was caught on Thursday (Aug 3). Photos: SPF, Najeer Yusof/TODAY

SINGAPORE — A police manhunt has been launched after an employee at a Western Union branch in Ubi was threatened at knifepoint on Tuesday (Aug 1) to hand over more than S$2,000. The robber then fled on foot with the cash. This is the second armed robbery case here in as many days.

On Monday, a 48-year-old man robbed the cashier at a Shell petrol station, and the police called it the first such robbery in 10 years. He also wielded a knife and fled with S$1,100, but was arrested within hours of the crime.

The police were alerted to the latest incident at about 10.50am on Tuesday. 

The Western Union branch, which offers money-transfer services, is located at Block 301, Ubi Avenue 1.

The employee was not hurt, and there was no other person at the outlet at the time.

Neighbouring tenants reported hearing a woman screaming loudly at around 10am, but no one saw the suspect. The boss of Strongberg Florist Trading, who let half of the shop space to the Western Union branch some six years ago, went out of his store immediately to see what was going on when he heard the screams, but the robber was nowhere to be seen.

“(The employee) was shouting, ‘Help me, there’s a robbery’, so I went out to take a look, but I didn’t see anyone … so I don’t think anyone gave chase too,” the 56-year-old man said, giving his name as only Mr Liu. 
This was the first time he had seen something like this happen in the vicinity, he added.

Mr Liu said that the victim appeared “nervous and shocked” when he talked to her after that, and he is now worried. He is considering installing closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) in the shop, and hopes the police will patrol the area more.

Three units away from the Western Union branch, a worker at Tai Chong Kok Bakery also said that she heard a “very loud” scream some time after 10am. “I was wondering who it was screaming so loudly,” she said, but she did not go out to take a look because she was one of two people manning the shop at the time.

The same scream was heard one unit away by 32-year-old receptionist Anna Chua from Advance Clinic & Surgery. She thought there was an argument going on: “I heard a woman shouting, and thought it was a husband and wife quarrelling. 

“Then somebody told me later there were four to five policemen outside, so I thought somebody (fell from a height at the block).”

The Western Union branch is among a stretch of shops at the public housing block which are frequented by residents, especially on weekends.

A 60-year-old resident, who declined to be named, said: “There is a family clinic, a bank, a mamak (sundry) shop ... and many things here. Many residents and foreigners walk by this stretch every day.”

She added that she has lived in the estate for more than 35 years without hearing of such incidents.

The owner of Lee Kok Zee Chinese Physician & Therapy, who identified himself as just Mr Lee, was in his clinic, which is a unit away from the Western Union branch, during the time of the robbery, but he said he was not aware of what had happened. 

Four shops, including the Western Union branch, were cordoned off when TODAY arrived at the scene at around noon. The cordon was removed at 2.40pm.

Shortly after that, the Western Union employee was accompanied out of the shop by the police and she got into a police car. The shutters of the shop came down as well.

A Western Union spokesperson said the company is cooperating fully with authorities as they conduct their investigation. 

"We are thankful to the Singapore law enforcement team for their rapid and professional response.

"Our primary concern is for the well-being of the staff who was manning the location. Western Union has arranged for assistance on-site and will continue to support the staff in the days ahead," the spokesperson said.

The police said that the suspect was wearing a white helmet, black jacket and dark-coloured long pants. 

Anyone with information should call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.

There were 15 cases of armed robbery last year, police told TODAY. In 2015, there were 14, and in 2014, there were 50 cases.

Suspect in Shell station armed robbery to be charged on Wednesday

The 48-year-old suspect who robbed the cashier at a Shell petrol station will be charged in court on Wednesday (Aug 2) with committing an armed robbery at a petrol station along Upper Bukit Timah Road in broad daylight on Monday.

The suspect, who tried to mask his identity by keeping his helmet on and donning sunglasses and gloves, went up to a cashier in the Shell station shortly before 1pm that day with a kitchen knife, and demanded cash from the register. 

The 22-year-old employee handed over more than S$1,100, and with the money stashed in a plastic bag, the suspect fled on a scooter that had the registration plate taped over. Little did he know that a 63-year-old customer found his behaviour suspicious enough that he tailed him to the Hillview area, the police said in a press conference on Tuesday (Aug 1).

After canvassing information on the ground and from witnesses, officers from the Clementi Police Division nabbed the suspect within four hours along Jurong East Street 21, which is near where he lives. They found S$499 and some bank receipts on him. But no knife was found, as the suspect said he had dropped it.

If convicted of armed robbery, the man faces imprisonment for a term of between two and 10 years. He will also receive at least 12 strokes of the cane.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Gerald Lim, who is commander of the Clementi Police Division, said this was the first robbery at a petrol station in 10 years.

He added: “This case was solved expeditiously with assistance of the public, and highlights the importance of collaboration between the police and the community in combating crime. The police do not tolerate such brazen acts and will spare no effort to bring these criminals to justice.”

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