Hijacked woman nails suspects

2013-06-22 00:00

AN alert woman tipped off police to the whereabouts of the men she believed hijacked her in May, after a chance encounter in Scottsville yesterday morning.

The police’s speedy response soon led to the arrest of the two suspected hijackers, but not before a dramatic shoot-out.

The men are believed to be linked to the murder of a police officer, as well as other hijackings that have plagued the Scottsville area. (See box)

Yesterday’s gun battle between the police and the suspects started in Golf Road and continued through the nearby Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary.

The two men from Hammans­kraal — aged 20 and 33 — were walking on Golf Road near the seminary when the woman spotted them.

She immediately alerted the police who were working on her case and who are part of a task team stationed in the area.

The suburb has become a hotspot for hijackings, with police on record as saying that crime in Scottsville, especially around the university, is of concern.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said when the police approached the suspects, one of the men started firing at them, as the other tried to flee.

“One entered the seminary premises. He left his firearm at the prayer garden and jumped over the wall,” said Jeevan.

The men were later arrested with help from the K9 Unit.

The quick-witted woman, who was hijacked on May 31 and whose ordeal was not reported in the media, said she was advised by her attorney not to comment.

Rowanne Marie, the seminary’s academic dean, said she was in her office when she heard shots being fired.

“My office is on the top storey and as I opened the door, I saw two men running [one with a firearm in his hands] and police chasing them,” she said.

Xolani Dyasi, a worker at the church who was painting chairs with his colleagues at the time, said: “I thought it was just a fire cracker at first. When I came out, I saw a man running inside the yard with a firearm in one hand. He ran past us to the garden. We did not know what was happening”

Dyasi said while they were shocked by the morning’s events, they were happy no one was hurt at the seminary.

Former Cope leader and presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Reverend Mvume Dandala, arrived just after the shoot-out and was given a briefing by police.

“I am proud of the police for the manner in which they handled this situation. This confirms the greater co-operation between members of society and the police,” he said.

Officers of the K9 unit and the Tactical Response Team were gathered at the scene yesterday, while cluster task team cars and ambulances were parked at the seminary entrance.

Police marked out the crime scene with tape and collected firearm cartridges.

One of the suspects was bleeding from his right arm and left thigh, after being bitten by a police dog.

While paramedics were attending to him, he cried out that he was in pain.

An officer at the scene said: “You want us to feel pity for you when you were terrorising the community. You did not think that one day it will be you feeling the pain.”

The other suspect was arrested in Isabel Beardmore Drive after escaping through the seminary gardens and jumping over a wall.

Glass in the guardhouse at the seminary was shattered in the shoot-out. A wall at the seminary was left pockmarked by bullet holes.

Police believe that the arrested men were part of a syndicate responsible for a series of attacks and hijackings in the Alexandra Road policing precinct.

However, neither the police nor the local community policing forum are prepared to give statistics about the hijackings in the area.

Jeevan said investigations had established that the men were on their way to hijack a vehicle.

A 9 mm handgun was recovered in the seminary garden.

The suspects will appear in the the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court soon.

The cluster commander, Major General Parbathie Maharaj, welcomed the arrests and praised the police officers.

Suspects may be linked to several city cases

• POLICE believe the arrested suspects may also be linked to the murder of a police officer in Mpumalanga township.

Constable Zebrone Bhengu (35) died in hospital days after he responded to a break-in. He died in a shoot-out with gunmen. His colleague, Constable Mpumelelo Mdaweni, has since been discharged from hospital. An alleged accomplice, Phumlani Mkhize, was shot dead at the scene of crime.

It is alleged that they were trying to gain access to the Makhabazela takeaway when the shoot-out occurred.

• On June 5, Doreen Clark from Athlone was at the gate of her sister’s house in King Edward Avenue in Scottsville when she was hijacked by two men.

• The suspects may also be linked to the hijacking of Scottsville resident Thabani Mkhize on Tuesday evening.

Mkhize was standing next to his car in Escombe Road talking to his friend Mlondi Ngcobo when they were approached by three gunmen who took his vehicle.

It was found abandoned in Mpumalanga township later that day.

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