An employee at a food takeaway store who was targeted in a botched robbery on Wednesday night said he forgives the suspect, adding that he would help him plead for mercy in court if called to testify.

Kwai Chung failed robbery
The man is seen pulling out a box cutter while waiting for change at the Kwai Chung takeaway store. Photo: Screenshot.

Describing the suspect as “timid,” the employee at the Kwai Chung shop, surnamed Wong, told local media the next day that the man pulled out a box cutter and said “robbery” so quietly that he could barely hear him.

“I’d forgive him in times like this, honestly speaking. If I have to testify in court, I would plead with the judge,” Wong said, according to NowTV. “In times like this, one wouldn’t rob for a few hundred or a thousand dollars if they weren’t absolutely desperate.”

The incident occurred late on Wednesday. CCTV footage from the restaurant showed the man ordering food and handing cash to Wong. As he counted change for him, the man appeared to take out a red box cutter.

Wong faltered initially and asked him what he had said. Then, he dashed into the back of the restaurant, as the sound of clanging metal was heard over the surveillance footage. By the time he ran out with a butcher’s knife, the suspect had already fled.

The 35-year-old suspect was arrested in Cheung Sha Wan on Thursday morning.

Four counts of robbery and attempted robbery

At a press conference on Thursday, police said the man was suspected to have carried out four robberies and attempted robberies between last Thursday and Wednesday in Hung Hom, Sham Shui Po, Tai Kok Tsui and Kwai Chung.

Besides the Kwai Chung takeaway shop, the other three were convenience stores.

“The crimes were similar in all four instances,” Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit said. “He flashed a 15 cm box cutter to threaten employees and ordered them to give him the cash in the register.”

Superintendent Alan Chung police
Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit briefs reporter about the case. Photo: Screenshot, via Hong Kong Police.

Two out of the four robberies were unsuccessful. In the other two, the convenience stores lost a total of HK$2,450, Chung added.

The suspect had a history of mental illness, police said. He formerly worked at a brokerage company but was now unemployed.

During the Thursday arrest, police seized the clothes the man wore at the time of the robberies as well as the box cutter. He was suspected of committing two counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.