Heavily-armed tactical police who stormed a pub in Melbourne's north after reports armed gunmen were holed up inside, have revealed the alleged offenders escaped a police cordon hours earlier.
Police were called to the Westmeadows Tavern on Ardlie Street, about 20 kilometres north of Melbourne CBD just after 5am on Monday following reports of two people inside the venue with at least one of the offenders armed who confronted workers.
Victoria Police Inspector Anthony Brown said it was a "violent and traumatising" experience for one worker when "she was confronted by them with a firearm". He said she was held against her will but managed to escape and ran into the arms of police.
A reported "siege" then ensued between the police and the alleged offenders for five hours. Inspector Brown said that when police arrived they set up a cordon around the pub.
"As you can imagine its quite a hectic scene, and unfolding, the [police] presence you see here this afternoon and throughout the morning is because we were unsure whether or not the offenders were still inside the premises.
"I am quite comfortable at this stage the offenders have managed to escape the scene prior to police setting up the cordon.
He said police were unsure as to whether the offenders had slipped past the cordon: "We were unsure whether they had done that and thats why we got the specialist resources out here…to make sure that they weren't still inside and possibly had slipped through".
Police eventually stormed into the pub at 10am and gave the all-clear at 2pm.
He was asked to why it took police several hours, he said the building was old and police were searching "cracks and crevices".
When asked whether it was embarrassing the armed offenders seemed to get through the police cordon, Inspector Brown replied: "I am not saying that they have got through the police cordon, the cordon was about to be established.
"Clearly they got out in the meantime," he said.
Seven news reporter Paul Dowsley had earlier told 3AW Radio at 7am there were “a lot” of police on the scene.
“The police vehicle is right up close lighting up the windows and they’re through the loudspeaker saying ‘come out without anything in your hands.”
“Police are sending the special operations group so they would have some real reason to believe that there are people inside.”
The Victoria Police dog squad was on the scene and people were asked to avoid the area.
No one else was in the building, a Victoria Police spokesperson said.