Hindu priest’s killer caught

2008-11-21 00:00

POLICE yesterday broke the back of an armed robbery gang who robbed and then stabbed and beat to death 73-year-old Phoenix priest Phadamalingum Pather, better known in the community as Pat.

Out on parole for only a few months after serving four years for armed robbery and car hijacking, a Durban man was thrown back into a cell yesterday in connection with the murder.

Captain Ronald Pillay, commander of the Provincial House Robbery Task Team, hopes this time the suspect won’t be coming out of prison.

The gang, allegedly led by the parolee, has so far been linked to two house robberies and the robbery of two Hindu temples. Pillay told Weekend Witness his office is investigating the possibility that the men might be involved in other robberies and possibly other attacks on churches and temples.

Pillay said his team are still hunting down a third gang member who, despite a search of all his known hideouts, managed to evade a police dragnet on Thursday evening.

Pillay said that the two gang members in custody have begun to co-operate with police and are expected to confess to their involvement in several robberies.

The ringleader of the gang, who cannot be named as he has not yet appeared in court, was tracked to his hideout in the notorious Amaoti area north of Durban after informers confirmed that property stolen from the priest was sold to a suspected drug dealer in Amaoti.

The ringleader was found in bed with his mistress, completely unaware that police were on his trail.

The drug dealer’s home was staked out, and late on Thursday night he was lured to a meeting — at which Detective Inspector Mayen Naidoo, the investigating officer into the murder of Pather, arrested the dealer on charges of possessing stolen property. Immediately after being arrested, the man claimed he bought the property from a man known to him and led police to his supplier.

On finding the supplier, police almost immediately recognised him as an armed robber — his extensive tattooing showed him to be a member of the notorious “26s” prison gang. On being questioned by police, the man admitted being on parole and confessed to several armed robberies, including the robbery in which Pather was killed.

The parolee then gave police the names of his accomplices and the names of those his gang sold stolen property to.

A search for property stolen by the gang proved fruitless yesterday.

Although police statistics do not show any increase of armed robberies during church services, KwaZulu-Natal has been rocked by several high-profile armed robberies targeting church services.

On October 15, four members of the Nazareth Baptist Church on the KZN north coast were raped after armed men stormed into a church service and robbed the congregation. Last month, 15 men, some of them armed with firearms, stormed a church service in Cato Manor, seizing cash and jewellery.

Last month, Pillay’s detectives secured a conviction for a gang who robbed a congregation of church-goers at Cliffdale, north of Durban.

“These robbers are all essentially cowards [who] target the weak. It is … sad that these people murdered a man for his television and a few other odds and ends.”

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