True Crime

I was bound and gagged

For Jennifer, a normal day in the office turned into something terrifying.

Jennifer Hosking, 45, Mannum, SA

There was a knock at the door. It must be Anna, I thought.

It was December 2009 and, as a customer services officer at the Mannum branch of BankSA, I was in the process of opening up for the day. Heading over to the staff entrance door, I saw one of our bank tellers, Anna, through the peephole. Although I didn’t know her well, she occasionally filled in for workers at our branch.

That day she’d come to cover for my manager, who was out at a meeting. But as I opened the door latch, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. A man barged past Anna and slammed me against a wall.

‘This is not your lucky day…’ he said, pinning my arms and slamming the door behind us. My heart hammered as I realised something horrifying. We were being robbed. Although the man wasn’t armed, he was about 185cm tall and easily dominated my 160cm frame. He had dark hair, but his eyes were obscured by tinted, wraparound sunglasses.

A man barged past Anna and slammed me against a wall.

Before I knew what was happening, he marched me down the hall and into the men’s toilets. ‘Get down’ he ordered, shoving me on the floor. He bound my wrists behind me with cable ties then pulled out a roll of blue electrical tape and stuck it over my mouth so I was struggling to breathe.

When he left, I tried not to fall apart. Somehow managing to wriggle free from the cable ties, I pulled the tape off my mouth. But before I could do anything else the robber returned. Terror gripped my heart as he approached, but I was surprisingly steady as I spoke.

‘I’m not going to scream, I won’t move, I just can’t breathe,’ I explained. My thoughts raced to my husband Tony, 48, and my sons, Jack, now 17, and Nathan, now 14. Would I ever see them again?

When he left, I tried not to fall apart.

I knew my best chance of getting through this meant staying calm and following the robber’s instructions. He doesn’t want to kill you, he just wants the money, I told myself as I heard Anna sobbing in the hallway.

‘Write down the code for the safe and the ATM,’ the man barked, handing me a piece of paper. With shaking hands I scribbled down the numbers. The man gave the paper to Anna, along with two green shopping bags which were soon filled with cash.

Then the robber led both Anna and me into the office and forced us to sit back to back while he tied our wrists together with cable ties. Thankfully, after grabbing the bags of cash the man quickly fled. Were we safe?

The bank at which Jennifer worked
The attack happened as I opened the branch for the day.

Anna broke down in tears. ‘I can’t believe you’re so calm,’ she wept. Staying calm probably saved us, I thought.

‘Come on, we need to get help,’ I said, pulling her up. Awkwardly, we made our way to the counter, where I pressed a secret distress button before picking up the phone and dialing Triple-0. Within moments, the police arrived and relief washed over me as they cut the ties from my hands. The heist was over and we’d survived.

The first thing I did was call Tony. He dropped everything to come and see me and so did my mum Athalie, 68. It was then I started thinking about what happened. Something was bothering me. Didn’t Anna have the opportunity to raise the alarm while I was tied up? She knew where the panic button was. Why hadn’t she pressed it when she had the chance?

‘I was too scared,’ Anna cried when I asked. But I couldn’t help think something wasn’t right. It wasn’t long until I realised the police thought so as well.

Didn’t Anna have the opportunity to raise the alarm while I was tied up?

Two days later, former bank employee Justin Lundberg was arrested in connection with the robbery. And Anna was too.

It took two and a half years for the whole truth to come out. In May 2012, at Adelaide District Court, Lundberg, then 35, was convicted of aggravated robbery and false imprisonment. The court heard that after stealing more than $120,000 from the bank, he had paid off a $41,000 debt before buying a plane ticket to Sydney with cash.

There was $20,500 found in his Sydney hotel room, but $60,000 was unaccounted for. Lundberg was originally sentenced to nine years and 10 months in prison – this was later reduced to seven years and 10 months on appeal.

This February, also at the district court, Anna Hein, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of assisting an offender to escape apprehension. In court, I heard how Hein and Lundberg had previously worked together at another branch of the bank and that Hein was ‘besotted’ with Lundberg.

Nathan, Jack, Jen and husband Tony
Jennifer with sons Nathan and Jack, and her husband Tony

During the robbery, she stayed by Lundberg’s side and helped provide him access to the money. Afterwards, she continued to phone and visit him in prison up until 2013. As the judge gave her a suspended 14-month sentence, I felt relieved. She’d taken responsibility for what she had done. I was free to move on.

But her betrayal affects me to this day. She’s never apologised so I can’t forgive her. Although I’ve had counselling, I don’t know if I’ll ever trust people like I once did.I never thought a simple day at work would leave me fearing for my life.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 10, 2015.

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