Hong Kong manhunt for gunman who shot luxury watch shop employee in robbery

HONG KONG - Hong Kong police are hunting down a gunman who staged a HK$5.5 million (S$0.98 million) robbery and shot an employee at a luxury watch shop in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tshui district.

Yesterday night, the shop employee, 57, was shot when he tried to stop the robber from leaving the store in Hong Kong's central business district, at Peking Road.

According to the South China Morning Post, he was conscious when taken to hospital and has reportedly undergone surgery.

Police are now searching for the robber, who got away with watches worth HK$5.5 million, in Hong Kong's first shooting during a robbery in more than a decade.

Described by one source as “calm and savage”, the robber is said to be about 1.6 m tall, and spoke Mandarin. He was also described as well-dressed in a silver-grey suit with white sports shoes, although he wore a surgical mask on his face. 

The incident began when the man visited the shop, Collectors Watch & Jewellery in the Hankow Centre, in Hong Kong's central business district on Thursday afternoon. He returned again that night, some time before 10pm, and chose nine Patek Philippe watches worth HK$5.5 million.

While showing staff a credit card which he said belonged to his boss, he suddenly grabbed the watches and made for the door, according to a police source. When the employee tried to stop him, he drew a pistol and fired a single shot "without warning, from close", according to a police source. He was last seen in Haiphong Road.

The man was one of five sales staff on duty.

According to Hong Kong broadcaster TVB, the police cordoned off the area and ordered people in nearby stores and dining outlets to leave while scores of heavily armed police in protective gear searched for the gunman.

A cartridge and a magazine containing several rounds of ammunition, thought to be from a mainland-made 7.62mm semi-automatic pistol known as a “black star”, were recovered from the store, reported the Post.

A manhunt continued last night around Kowloon Park and searches being conducted on Haiphong Road.

Hong Kong experienced several armed jewellery heists in the 1990s, as nearby China's newly-wealthy went on shopping sprees there. But today, its crime rates are among the lowest in the world today, with eight robberies per 100,000 people in 2012, compared with 243 in New York and 789 for Paris, according to government figures.