A K35,000 payroll for 80 nurses and Catholic diocese staff in Kerema, Gulf province, was hijacked by three men yesterday morning.
The money was flown to Kerema from Port Moresby in an “esky” due to a lack of banking services in the area.
It is believed that the men were also on board the plane and had followed the people who took the esky to the diocese centre.
The diocese’s health secretary and administrator, Frank Joseph, said he hid the “esky among some store items but the men found it.
He said they lost K13,627.06 in cash and K22,285.72 in cheques. About K2,000 in cash belonged to diocese staff.
Mr Joseph said the men had asked to buy some cigarettes sold at a house in the centre.
Suddenly, they rushed into Mr Joseph’s house, grabbed the esky and fled.
Witnesses said the robbers left the area in a ferry except for one who was caught by police.
However, it is believed two men helped the suspect escape from police custody.
Both have been detained.
The three robbers were believed to be hiding in the swamps.