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Unmasked: Melbourne couple charged over burqa bandit robbery

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 23/08/2017 Carrie-Anne Greenbank

Police have charged a Melbourne couple over an alleged armed robbery where a knife-wielding bandit wore a burqa as a disguise.

Felicity Chafer-Smith, 21, and her boyfriend Clinton Phillips, 38 are accused of participating in a string of armed robberies across Victoria over the past few days. 

It’s alleged Chafer-Smith donned an Islamic headdress to hide her face before threatening a worker with a knife and making off with cash from the till during a robbery at a Croydon Subway restaurant on Saturday.

Police allege the pair also were responsible for heists at a jewellery store in Traralgon, a Shell service station at Morwell, and another Subway store on Monday.

The pair allegedly used scarves to cover their faces in all other robberies, but only it was only during the Croydon robbery that they chose to use a burqa.

Felicity Chafer-Smith, 21, and her boyfriend Clinton Phillips, 38. © Nine News Felicity Chafer-Smith, 21, and her boyfriend Clinton Phillips, 38. A woman whose granddaughter works at the Subway store in question said she arrived at work on Sunday morning and was shocked to learn what happened when police officers arrived.

"(The CCTV showed the robber) took the money and proceeded to put it into a bag, and then walked out of the store," the woman, who identified herself as Karen, said.

Maroondah mayor Tony Dib is pointing the finger at Pauline Hanson’s Senate stunt as the inspiration for the disguise, after she wore a burqa into Senate to support her argument for a ban of the religious garment.

“Because of the silly things that Pauline Hanson did in the Senate, you'll probably see a lot of it happening,” Mayor Dib said.

“People instead of wearing a hat or a helmet or a mask, they'll be wearing a burqa.”

The One Nation Senator has hit back, calling Mayor Dib’s claim “rubbish”.

“That’s rubbish to even think that… It’s not what I say, it’s our laws which are allowing them,” she said.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has also expressed concern about the potential "negative repercussions" of Ms Hanson's stunt.

The religious garment has been used in robberies before, here and overseas – but very rarely.

The alleged burqa bandit will face court at a later date.

Mr Phillips has been remanded in custody and will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

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