Coronavirus: Manhunt launched after two men hold up store at knifepoint and steal 500 toilet rolls

‘People need to grow up and look out for our most vulnerable,’ says police minister after thefts at Sydney supermarkets

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 24 March 2020 12:55 GMT
Australia faces toilet roll shortage due to 'panic buying' during coronavirus scare

Police are hunting for two men accused of stealing more than 500 rolls of toilet paper from supermarkets in Australia during the coronavirus outbreak.

The pair are alleged to have broken into the storage areas at four separate outlets in Sydney’s south-west suburbs on Sunday, after a spate of panic buying has cleared many shelves of loo roll.

One of the men was reported to have threatened a supermarket employee at the Auburn branch with a knife, according to New South Wales police.

David Elliott, the minister for police and emergency services in New South Wales, condemned the “disgraceful” theft and urged anyone with information to come forward.“I support any measures taken by police to protect our communities from this sort of disgraceful criminal activity,” Mr Elliot said on Tuesday.

Police image of two men suspected of stealing toilet paper from storage rooms

The people of NSW will not tolerate criminal behaviour at any time let alone during this crisis. People need to grow up and look out for our most vulnerable.”

Investigating officers have issued pictures of the two men accused of the theft in the hope a member of the public will recognise them.

The first man is described by police as being of “Mediterranean / Middle Eastern appearance”, about 185 to 190cm tall, aged in his 30s, with a solid build.

He has tattoos on his arms and was wearing a grey collared shirt with long blue track pants. The second man is described as being 175 to 180cm tall with a slim build, aged between 30 and 35, and was wearing black Adidas trousers and a camouflaged hooded jumper.

While the pair appeared to be targeting toilet paper and stole multiple packs from the supermarkets in Granville and Auburn, they left empty handed from the shops in Bass Hill and Lidcombe.

More than 500 rolls were estimated to have been taken in all, according to Australian media reports.

Australia has experienced particularly intense bout of stockpiling in recent weeks. Two women were charged after a fight over toilet paper in a Sydney supermarket, while a man was tasered by police after allegedly attacking staff at a store in Tamworth that had temporarily run out of the same in-demand product.

New South Wales police’s acting inspector Andrew New has urged people to stop panic buying loo roll and said supply chains were in place to make sure everyone had enough.

“There is no need for it. It’s not the Thunderdome, it's not Mad Max, we don’t need to do that.”

There are 2,044 confirmed coronavirus cases across Australia and eight deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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