Bedlam in Bedforview

2015-01-30 00:00

ONE of the country’s most wanted and infamous cash-in-transit (CIT) robbers may have been arrested after a wild ­shootout with security officers at Bedfordview shopping centre yesterday.

The left shinbone of the robber, whose name is known to the media, was ­allegedly shot off at about 11.10 am when CIT guards fought off an ambush by a large gang.

His fellow robbers who had taken up high positions above the CIT guards in an ambush, had opened fire using ­special rounds that can penetrate ­bullet-proof vests. But the heavily outnumbered guards returned fire valiantly and with more accuracy, sending the gang fleeing as they left their mate to defend himself … or die.

A long trail of blood showed where the heavily wounded robber had crawled down the escalators to the centre’s ­basement where he was too weak to ­hijack the Volkswagen Jetta of a 75-year-old man.

Two separate sources yesterday said the gang who attacked the CIT van ­numbered at least 30 members, some of them shouting at each other about leaving their comrade behind — but not because they cared about his welfare. They were worried he would live and tell police their details.

The gang attacked the CIT guards as they carried money bags up escalators into the Bedfordview Centre’s bank section. In the ensuing shootout, two guards were wounded, as well as two robbers and three clients in the centre. Two of them received medical care from paramedic in a pharmacy.

After the shootout, empty casings for AK47 rounds littered the floor but ­police were more interested in several long, silver projectiles among them.

Chairperson of the National Gun Owners Association, advocate John Welch, confirmed these projectiles were sophisticated rounds that can penetrate bullet-proof vests.

“This type of ammunition may not be sold to private rifle owners. There is a strong possibility that these rounds were smuggled in from countries like Mozambique or Zimbabwe, or that it was stolen from a police or army store.”

Eye witnesses told of a frightening fire fight between a well-organised gang and determined CIT guards who fought for their lives.

“It was a war,” said one.

Staff at the Wimpy in the centre told Eyewitness News that some of the ­attackers were drinking coffee in the restaurant before as they waited for the guards to come up the escalators from the basement. When the first shots were fired at about 11.10 am, Ian Swanepoel, manager at a restaurant in the centre, ran out to look from the top down to the parking basement.

“A white bakkie was parked under the booms to prevent them from closing.

“Then more shots followed and a lot of people started running to the bakkie.

“About 12 people jumped on the back, two were in front. A white car with about six people inside and another smaller bakkie with six people on the back and two in front raced away.”

Another eyewitness confirmed Swanepoel’s version and added some of the people were carrying “big weapons” and some were clad in blue overalls.

As the guards and robbers shot at each other, Jenny Goncalves from Bedfordview took shelter in the post office. “I heard the shots and then it was chaos. It was a full scale war … I heard how the shots were getting closer and closer.” She then ran to hide with other witnesses under the escalators, from where she saw how the robbers ran into different stores, some into Foschini — scattering containers of makeup in their wake — and some into the Pick n Pay.

“Five minutes after that we saw a man with a bleeding leg crawling to the ­escalator. He was dragging a large gun [an AK47] behind him.”

She saw how he accosted a 75-year-old man in the basement who had heard the noises and opened his door to see. The robber hit him with the bloodied AK47 over the shoulder and yelled, “Take me! Take me!”

But the old man told him, “Oh no, take yourself” and got away from his car.

Goncalves then pulled the old man under the escalator with her as the ­robber struggled to get into the Volkswagen Jetta.

Security guards arrested him in the car and seized his AK47 and two cheap cellphones.

The flying squad, dog units and metro police as well as Netcare911 paramedics arrived shortly after this.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant- ­Colonel Katlego Mogale said that the two wounded robbers were arrested but the rest of their gang were still at large, for now.

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