Hijack starts chain of death

2014-07-12 00:00

THE slaying of a man during a hijacking gone awry in Northdale, Pietermaritzburg, on Thursday night unleashed a bloody chain of interwoven events that saw two police officers dying just hours after the shooting.

In the wake of the carjacking, a police net was thrown out to close off any ­escape route for the gunmen, with four officers dispatched to a highway overpass in Cato Ridge.

While three of the police officers stood outside the car on the lookout for the hijackers, the fourth took his own life — his blood-stained pistol falling to his side.

Hours later, a second police officer from the group was killed in a horror accident on the R33, when the police car she was travelling in left the road.

The hijacking that precipitated the string of deaths is understood to have happened late on Thursday night when a man was pulling into his Newholmes Way home.

Accosted by three gunmen, well known Pietermaritzburg businessman Imdad Bhatti was dragged from his car and shot twice before his attackers raced away in his BMW. He was rushed to Northdale Hospital where he later died — and his car was found abandoned less than five kilometres away from his home.

Bhatti was shot dead in front of his wife and children as he returned from mosque to his home in Newholmes Way, with his six-year-old son.

It is alleged that Bhatti and his son were in the car when three men confronted them. His wife, Nida, was coming to open the gate. It’s believed that he threw the car keys over the gate to her, causing the men to shoot repeatedly towards Nida, but somehow miss her. They then shot him and sped away. The men managed to escape with the car, a white BMW 3 series.

A neighbour, Anusha Pillay, said she was watching a movie in her bedroom with her husband when she heard a scream followed by repeated gunshots.

“We jumped up to the window to see what was happening. His children were screaming.

“We all ran out to try help him, as he was on the driveway. My husband and my son rushed him to the hospital … but on the way he died,” said Pillay.

She added that Bhatti’s young children were holding their father’s wounded body as he lay on the floor. “They were shouting, ‘Daddy, daddy”, while one was holding his leg and the other holding his hand. We were so traumatised and couldn’t sleep the whole night.”

Bhatti was the owner of Central Hardware as well as the founder of a mall at Bhamshela in Appelsbosch.

Later on Thursday night his car was found abandoned on Birmingham Road in Eastwood.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said no arrests had been made and that police were investigating a case of murder and hijacking.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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