Pictured: A man police are hoping to speak with to assist with their investigation
A Coles customer has been arrested after he punched an employee in the face and rammed his trolley into two women in their 70s when he learned the store was sold out of certain items, including flour.
The man, who appeared to be in his mid-50s, grew agitated when he couldn’t find flour, among other groceries, during a trip to Coles in Lismore, in northeast New South Wales, on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
He rammed his trolley into two other customers, both women in their 70s.
One of the women was knocked to the ground in the incident, while the other was pinned up against store shelves.
Panic buying due to the threat of coronavirus has stripped shelves bare in Coles, Woolworths and Aldi stores throughout the nation.
Supermarket bosses have repeatedly assured consumers there is no manufacturing shortage, but said staff are struggling to keep shelves stocked of toilet paper, non-perishables like pasta and hand sanitiser.
The man police are hoping to speak with was wearing a black or grey shirt, dark denim jeans and travelled on a while bicycle
Pictured: Elderly and vulnerable people line up outside a Woolworths store ahead of their special shopping hour on March 17
When a 45-year-old shop assistant came to the aid of the two victims, she was punched in the face.
She suffered bruising and swelling to her jaw, chest and forearm as well as stiffness in her neck from the incident.
The two other women who were targeted quickly left the store without providing their details. It is unknown if they were injured.
The store manager and a security guard on the premises were also assaulted before the man was eventually escorted from the building.
So far, at least 561 people have been infected with coronavirus in Australia, including six people who died from the illness
Pictured: A man trying to buy toilet paper in an Australian supermarket after panic buying due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no suggestion he was involved in any violence
The incident is the latest in a string of brawls and arguments in supermarkets, as tensions run high during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just days ago, shocked onlookers in Bass Hill watched a man threaten to ‘f**king kill’ another after a confrontation over goods, while another customer produced a knife during an argument over toilet paper in Parramatta two weeks ago.
Police have since released pictures of a man they’re hoping to speak with to assist with their inquiries in the latest incident.
The man in the pictures was wearing a grey or black T-shirt and dark denim jeans with a black backpack, and left on a white bicycle.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to stop hoarding food and other essential supplies.
The prime minister said the panic-buying chaos sweeping grocery stores across the country has been one of the ‘most disappointing things’ he has seen in ‘Australian behaviour’ in response to this crisis.
‘Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it,’ Mr Morrison said as he addressed the nation on Wednesday.
‘That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing.
‘It is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centres.
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s un-Australian, and it must stop, and I would ask people to do the right thing by each other in getting a handle on these sorts of practices.’
Mr Morrison reassured the public the government was putting in place ‘scalable and sustainable measures’ and bulk-buying was unnecessary.
He also asked people to stop ‘abusing staff’ after footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking supermarket employees because they couldn’t locate goods.
Anyone with information about the incident, or the identity of the man, is urged to contact Lismore Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.