Masked bandits in raid on club

TWO balaclava-wearing bandits have stolen thousands of dollars from the Benalla Bowling Club, leaving its chief executive “sick to the stomach”.

The pair forced entry through a locked door from a smoking area and unsuccessfully attempted to prise open a pokie machine.

They then broke into a strong room containing the cash.

They were in and out of the Arundel Street club within two minutes some time between 3.30am and 4am yesterday.

Club chief Julie Dosser said she had arrived soon after police and security about 4.15am.

“It makes you feel sick to the stomach,” she said.

“I felt annoyed more than anything.

“It’s a bit disconcerting that there are people out there willing to do anything for money.”

Ms Dosser said the bandits had caused a few hundred dollars worth of damage.

Benalla police Acting Detective Sgt Shannon Murphy said the men had abandoned their efforts to get into the pokie machine after setting off a sensor alarm.

“They’ve then gone into the room and ransacked it, stealing notes and coins,” he said.

“Then they’ve fled in a silver-coloured sedan.”

Although the pair’s images were captured on CCTV, their faces were obscured by balaclavas and they used gloves to ensure they did not fingerprints.

However, Sgt Murphy said the thieves had left tools they used to enter the building and other forensic evidence behind, giving police hope of identifying them.

He said the theft was rare for Benalla.

“It’s no doubt the bowling club is a major hub for many in the community,” Sgt Murphy said.

“It’s a concern to police and we hope to identify the offenders.”

Anyone with information is urged to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Benalla police on 03 5760 0200.