Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001

By Anita Postmaa

Waihi's "wild west" history was made complete in 1964 when the old National Bank in Seddon Street was robbed. The Friday night robbery was discovered by Waikino man, Nick Tuhi, on Saturday morning of December 28, 1964 when he came upon a trail of threepenny pieces on Haszard Street. Following the trail, he gathered two full handfuls of coins before reaching the bank's back gate, where he saw with astonishment that the ground was littered with silver. Realising that there had been a robbery, Mr Tuhi informed the supervisor at the Akrad Radio Station so he could telephone the police.

Arriving at the scene, police discovered the back door of the bank shattered and the strongroom door and two safes blasted open. Val Barns, a junior in the bank in 1964, says that the robber just "blew everything to pieces", adding that coins and bonds were scattered all over the bank floor. The bank was promptly sealed off for investigation purposes, and anyone leaving the scene (including Bank Manager, Mr E Saunders) had their shoes checked to make sure that no coins were stuck to them. Later that day a van stolen from Papatoetoe was discovered near the Martha Quarry. The van, a 1953 Morris Minor, with a rear canopy, was believed to have been used in the robbery.

Escaped prisoner, Leonard Edwin Evans, was apprehended late Saturday night on Martha Hill be Constable Lindstrom, who had realised that the only escape route was the same path he had taken to get onto the hill, through a tunnel in the gorse. Evans had escaped from Waikune Prison, National Park, on November 11 1964 and was allegedly well known as a safe blaster. He was apprehended by Lindstrom while trying to fix a fence about 300 yards away from the Pumphouse which he had cut during his escape. After firing a warning shot, Lindstrom asked the offender to turn around and raise his hands. More shots were fired to alert the back-up forces but he ended up bringing Evans out of the bush at gun point. Lindstrom marched the prisoner down to the Sterling Hotel and stood him against a wall with his hands up until a passer-by brought the police.

The National Bank believed that well over £5000 was stolen on Friday night, £2000 of which was found on Evans when he was arrested. A further £3380 was found in a patch of high gorse near the No. 4 shaft where Evans had been hiding. He also had in his possession a .32 automatic pistol and a hatchet.

During the following weeks, police were still looking for some missing silver, and it is believed that this was thrown down an old mine shaft by Evans. The remaining silver has never been recovered.