A bump in the night
A newspaper clipping found attached to the staff record of Arthur Claude Thompson illustrates the dangers that were once a part of life for bank officers. The clipping is dated September 5th, 1932. At the time, Mr Thompson was Branch Manager of BNZ Patea. As was expected, he and his wife lived in the residence provided on the first level of the Patea premises. The bank itself was located on the ground floor.
On the evening of Saturday, 3rd September 1932, Mr Thompson went upstairs to take a bath while his wife settled into bed for the night. At around 10pm Mr Thompson entered the bedroom. His wife asked whether he had heard a sound. Expecting she was referring to the bank below, Mr Thompson looked toward the floor, only to see a man lying beneath the bed.
Without indicating he had seen anything, Mr Thompson moved to collect his revolver. His back turned, the man bolted out of the room and down the stairs into the darkness below.
Following quickly behind, Mr Thompson turned on the passageway light and saw the man had vanished. After searching the ground floor Mr Thompson was convinced the intruder had hidden in a cupboard next to the stairs. Remaining calm, he bolted the door from the outside before calling outside for assistance.
Three men heard his cry and hurried to help. Mr Thompson asked them to watch the cupboard while he phoned the police. Constable Kelly was quick to arrive. There, he opened the cupboard door where, just as Mr Thompson expected, the intruder was waiting inside.
The burglar was found to be a 24 year old man, who had travelled to Patea that day by mail train. Amongst his possessions were a torch, thick green cord, a pad of cotton wool and a three-ounce bottle, three parts filled with chloroform.
It was noted that a number of similar break-ins had recently occurred nearby in Wanganui. The man was later charged with breaking into a chemist on August 2nd where he stole cash and a bottle of chloroform.
These days it is rare for staff to live on bank premises. Technology such as security cameras and alarms has allowed for the removal of guns. Staff are taught to hand over any money demanded in a robbery rather than risk their safety. They also receive emotional support following any events - not a service formally provided in Mr Thompson's time.