A normal Friday changed Anette’s life forever
Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe has suffered serious consequences after a gun was held to her forehead and she was taken hostage at a robbery. Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe has suffered serious consequences after a gun was held to her forehead and she was taken hostage at a robbery.
“It is difficult for me to accept that I will never be the same.”
That is how Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe feels. In 2017, everything changed for the 49-year-old support assistant at Sparekassen Thy when she was held at gunpoint and taken hostage during a bank robbery.
“I was so terrified and kept crying, thinking I would never see my family again. I thought they were going to shoot me and that I would die,” she continues, describing that ill-fated day in January that has scarred her life.
Recent data from Finance Denmark show that not a single bank robbery was committed in Denmark. Yet, nine were committed in 2017, one of which hit them at the branch where Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe was working.
Lives with PTSD and anxiety
Today, she suffers from severe PTSD as well as social and generalised anxiety. She gets tired more quickly, sleeps badly at night, her memory has deteriorated, she is afraid of going out alone in the dark and starts crying very easily.
“The moment someone asks me how I’m doing, I start crying and it's impossible for me to continue the conversation”, she says.
She doesn't feel well when having to go to the doctor or dentist, and socialising with people whom she doesn’t know is a challenge.
“If I have to go to an event, I am nervous and scared several weeks beforehand, and it will often end by me sending my apologies because it all becomes too much”, says Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe.
It has also affected her body physically in the form of neck tension and headaches almost daily, requiring her to see a physiotherapist every other week.
Bank robberies in Denmark
- In 2000, 221 bank robberies were committed in Denmark, almost one every banking day
- The number fell to 121 in 2004
- Since 2017, less than ten bank robberies were recorded a year
- 2021 saw only one single robbery
Source: Finance Denmark
A normal day that turned into a nightmare
In January 2017, on a Friday like any other at the bank, everything changed for Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe in a matter of seconds.
Like so many times before, she clocks in at 8 at the Sparekassen Thy branch in Hundborg. But the minute she steps in and switches the alarm off, she senses that something is off.
“I smell a fragrance that isn't normally there, and I think to myself that it might be the cleaning staff using different soap than usual or perhaps a problem with the dishwasher”, she explains.
But walking towards her desk, she suddenly hears footsteps behind her and instantly realises that neither the soap nor the dishwasher is to blame. And when she turns around, she sees a person dressed in black and wearing a balaclava coming towards her.
“First, I laugh, thinking it’s a joke, but in a flash, I realise, that it’s for real, and I start backing off when the man says ‘come with me’,” she says. At this point, she begins screaming “no, no, no”.
Armed with a gun, an axe and a crowbar
The man grips her arm and pulls her out into the toilet. She is thrown into the corner, and another man orders her to give him her telephone. It is tossed in the sink, and water is poured over it.
The two men keep shouting and bombarding her with questions about how many people work in the department, when they will get in, and where the keys for the safety-deposit box are kept, all while threatening her with a gun.
They keep pumping her for the same information, and when she looks at the man whom she suspects to be the leader, the gun is pressed to her face, while he shouts not to look at him.
After 25 minutes, a female colleague checks in. She, too, is attacked and thrown to the toilet floor next to Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe.
“When she is right opposite me, I take her hands to hold on to something, just hoping that we will get through it together.”
The female colleague is also bombarded with questions as they are waiting for another two colleagues to check in. When the two robbers realise that no further staff members are expected to show up, they take one of the colleagues with them to the front office where the money is handed over to them. But they are not done and want their hands on the customers’ safety-deposit boxes and start destroying them with an axe and a crowbar.
But they have to give this up and finally decide to run. On their way out, they smash the sink containing the mobile phones, and they spray pepper spray into the faces of the staff.
Has lost 15 kg
Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe has been locked inside the bank for an hour and five minutes. And although she and her colleagues have managed to lock the door and pushed the attack alarm, the adrenalin is still racing through her body.
“I’m crying – my heart keeps pounding, and I just can’t find rest,” she says.
She is left in a haze in the time after the robbery. She loses 15 kg and prefers to stay in bed with her husband and her five children around her. She cries a lot and jumps at the sounds of footsteps.
“I’m frightened by the slightest inexplicable noise,” she explains.
But she is immensely grateful for the support her husband and children have given her. They know what she can handle, and they accept that there is a lot that she cannot manage.
“I am definitely not the mother and wife, I used to be, and I probably never will be,” she says.
“The best colleagues in the world”
Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe still works at Sparekassen Thy. She has been moved from the branch where the robbery was committed and today fills a flex job position of 14 hours a week at the main office to keep her from customer contact and away from the place where money is handled. She goes to the bank two days a week and works remotely from home on the other three days.
She hopes to be able to come to the bank five days a week at some point, but right now, it works best for her to work from home where she is more efficient.
“When I’m at the bank, I’m always somewhat on edge, and there is more disturbance, so, on those days, I’m not as efficient”, she says, adding that the workplace has no problem with that. And generally, the way the workplace has handled the situation has been crucial to where the 49-year-old support assistant is today.
“If I didn’t have this job, I would fall apart; I would stay at home and wouldn’t come out to see and be with other people,” she says.
And the support from her colleagues means the world to her.
“I've got the best colleagues in the world – because they have been there for me – they are empathetic and have been very considerate and help me on the difficult days when I do nothing but cry,” she says, telling us about the hugs she gets from them whenever she needs it.
“And they simply make my workdays better – they are like a second family – we laugh and cry together, and the culture at Sparekassen Thy is testimony to a fantastic team spirit of helping one another in times of distress. We take care of each other,” finishes Anette Korsgaard Hilligsøe.