Man arrested over 'Coles attack on elderly' amid panic buying hysteria

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Police have arrested a man who allegedly assaulted two elderly women inside a Coles supermarket after becoming outraged when he couldn’t find items he was there to purchase.

A 45-year-old female store attendant attempted to intervene but was allegedly punched in the face inside the supermarket on Uralba Street in Lismore, northeast NSW, on Tuesday about 3.30pm (local time).

Police alleged the 63-year-old man knocked one of the older women, believed to be in their 70s, to the ground and pinned the other one against some shelving.

When the store manager and a security guard approached the man, they too were assaulted, but eventually the man was removed and he fled the scene on a girl’s bike.

Police arrested this man in relation to the alleged incident inside a supermarket on Tuesday. Source: NSW Police Force

The 45-year-old woman sustained bruising and swelling to her left jaw, bruising and swelling to her left forearm, a small laceration to her left forearm, stiffness to her neck and bruising to her chest.

She declined medical assistance and the other two ladies left the store without leaving their details, so their medical condition is unknown.

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Following a public appeal, a man was arrested by officers from Richmond Police District on Nimbin Road, North Lismore and taken to Lismore Police Station.

Police said their inquiries were continuing, and charges were expected to be laid.

The man fled on a girl's bike wearing a black helmet. Source: NSW Police Force

They asked anyone with information about the incident, or the identity of the man, to contact Lismore Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Coles said it would not comment on the incident due to it being part of a police investigation, but sought to remind shoppers to be respectful of staff.

“Coles team members and suppliers have been working as hard as possible delivering more products to stores every day and stocking shelves as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“We ask for customers to continue to respect, show compassion and support our team members in stores and our Customer Care and Coles Online call centres, particularly if a product is unavailable or if the checkout queues are longer than normal.

“We have significantly increased the number of team members working in our stores to support this level of unprecedented demand and are actively recruiting for more than 5000 more casual team members.

“We are constantly reviewing security measures to manage the unprecedented levels of customer demand in our stores.”

Supermarket aggression has become a common scene in Australia as shoppers panic buy items amid growing concern about the coronavirus crisis.

A fight broke out inside a Sydney Woolworths on March 7 after a shopper tried to hoard multiple packets of toilet paper, with a similar confrontation unfolding inside a Coles store later that day.

On Wednesday, it was a staff member getting stern with a customer inside Coles, with her filmed yelling at him to leave the store after a disagreement over toilet paper.

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