The modern-day bandit targets lifts. After climbing into the shaft, he travels on top of the lift, waiting for his prey - usually a single person or couple - to step into the elevator. Then, when the lift is between floors, he switches off the power and, from his perch, demands money and valuables after threatening to douse the person inside with inflammable liquid and set them on fire if they do not comply.
He then partly opens the lift doors and the booty is placed in his searching hand. Finally, he makes his escape through the exit doors on the next level up, leaving his victim stuck in the elevator until the fire brigade is alerted to mount a rescue.
The lift bandit struck six times last month, always in housing estates in the Tuen Mun district of the New Territories, and always late at night. The crimes netted him more than HKdollars 50,000 ( pounds 4,500) in cash and jewellery.
According to a Tuen Mun police spokesman, the robber has never been seen by the victims, apart from his hand. But police are confident they are dealing with one man. From his knowledge of elevator controls, they believe he must at some time have worked for a lift company. 'It's not the kind of robbery that any robber can do,' said the spokesman.
With the majority of Hong Kong's housing situated in high-rise residential blocks, lift robberies are a common crime in the colony. In 1992, according to police figures, there were 1,575 elevator robberies. But in these instances the robber was inside the lift, with his victim.
The elevator thief was out of luck on his last foray, however. Flush with his previous success, he picked on a couple rather than a single person, but, according to police, they 'raised such hell' that the frightened robber left empty-handed.