Purported PNG Robbery/Hostage Situation A Dangerous 'April Fools' Hoax


Situation lasted four hours as police shut down businesses and closed roads, comes just two days after a police death in attempted robbery

By Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 02, 2016) – April 1 is normally a day when people are fooled but yesterday, August 1, was the first day of the month, when police were fooled into thinking that a hostage crisis had hit the quiet but popular cruise destination of Alotau in Milne Bay Province.

The hoax lasted four hours as police shut down businesses and banks, and the town came to a standstill as police blocked off all roads as residents reported tear gas being fired over the roof.

A cruise ship, Pacific Aria, with 1400 passengers aboard recalled all its passengers from shore tours and was departing for the Trobriand Islands later in the day.

The prank came two days after the shooting death of Constable Samuel Pias during an attempted robbery of a shop.

Yesterday’s events, between 9am and 10am, unfolded when members of the public raised concerns that an attempted robbery was taking place and there was a hostage situation at an airline company.

Police reacted swiftly by blocking off parts of the town, resulting in shops and offices, including the two commercial banks shutting down their services for the day.

A disappointed provincial police commander Chief Superintendent Joseph Morehare said the siege was a total hoax.

He said when police received message that the robbery was in place at the Air PNG office, they sealed off the place. After four hours of police negotiations through a loud hailer, they decided to check the building that houses four offices including the airline company.

Too much dismay, police discovered no criminals as they released traumatised workers from Water PNG, Mapping Bureau, a finance company and the airline company.

"Police went room by room and released everyone," Chief Supt Morehare said.

He said there were eight people locked inside and were released. "We wasted tear gas and even blew the last door down only to find it empty," he said.

Asked if there was communication from the "hostages" inside, the police chief said there was none, but the workers assumed there was a robbery in the building.

He has called for immediate investigations to establish who the pranksters were and arrest and charge them.

Government officials including National Broadcasting Corporation have confirmed the hoax.

According to ABC Radio, the cruise ship company released a statement to say that all passengers on the Pacific Aria had been accounted for and the ship was departing for the Trobriand Islands and its next scheduled call.

Meanwhile, the criminals involved in the attempt robbery and the fatal shooting of the police man have escaped to the Samarai group of islands.

Mr Morehare said police have not received any leads to their whereabouts.

PNG Post-Courier
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