‘Five-minute gang’ hits suburbs

2008-05-02 00:00

THEY come in smart cars, smash the gates and clean out houses in five minutes.

A brazen housebreaking gang — dubbed the “five-minute gang”, believed to have moved its operations from Durban — has targeted nine houses in Ferncliffe and Town Bush Valley in Pietermaritzburg in the last two weeks.

They have smashed through electric driveway gates and well-secured front doors with two-metre crowbars and boldly made off with expensive goods, cash and firearms from homes with state-of-the-art security systems.

The latest break-in happened in Crowned Eagle Way just yesterday afternoon, when a large quantity of valuables and cash were stolen. This break-in followed two similar incidents in the area between 2 pm and 3 pm on Thursday.

A source close to the incidents alleges that police have armed themselves to the teeth in anticipation of a clash with the criminals, who themselves are well armed and have stolen weapons from gun safes that they have wrenched off walls during their spree.

He fears that a confrontation between police and the gang may be imminent and that the result could be a bloody battle in the suburbs. It is believed that the gang were operating in posh Durban suburbs before moving to Pietermaritzburg.

Thursday’s victims asked that their identities and addresses not be disclosed for fear of another attack.

The first victim, who lives in Craigie Drive, declined to say much about the incident, except that his house was attacked at about 2 pm, while he was away. He said the criminals lifted his main gate off its rail to gain entrance into the house.

The second victim said his house was attacked at about 3 pm. He said he is frightened and wants to sell his luxury Tibouchina Drive home.

He said there was no one in the house when the attack happened. The criminals started by breaking sharp steel spikes on the main gate before lifting it off its rail. They also damaged the steel gate and the main door, apparently using a crowbar. They stole valuables worth about R150 000.

“When I came home at about 3.25 pm, I was shocked to see my main gate opened and my two dogs [a German shepherd and a Labrador] on the road. When I went in I saw that my main door, which is not normally used, was … opened.

“Inside things were upside down in my study. [Among the stolen items] were a large number of expensive pens, about nine cellphones, and my brand-new laptop. The list of stolen items could come to a page-and-a-half.”

The Tibouchina Drive victim said he does not understand why his dogs did not bark or attack the intruders.

A businessman, whose offices are next to the second victim’s house, said he saw a new Mercedes Benz C-Class vehicle parked in front of the victim’s main gate.

“[A] few minutes later, I walked down the road to my house, passing this expensive vehicle. I greeted the occupant, who responded very politely. He was dark, about 1,8 metres tall and well built. He was dressed smartly in a white shirt and dark pants. He was leaning against the car.

“Probably there were others already in the house because the gates were open. I just thought he was a business friend of [the victim], because the dogs were not even barking,” said the neighbour.

The Witness understands that there have been seven similar break-ins over the past two weeks.

Millions of rands in valuables and cash were stolen. They all happened during the day, involved new vehicles such as a white Mercedes, black Mazda and Honda Ballade. Residents said these cars are often seen in the area. They suspect that the registration numbers change.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that two cases of housebreaking were reported on Thursday, and are being investigated.

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