Hotel chef tells court of robbery gone awry

2010-03-15 00:00

FORMER head chef at the Wartburger Hof Hotel, Max Haller (58), described on Friday how he came face to face with a gunman in the hotel on the night of November 7, 2007.

As he turned and “ran for his life” he heard his employer, Ingrid Schadle (65), screaming “No”, just before a gunshot went off.

Ingrid and her husband, Siegfried Schadle (68), were both shot dead during an attempted robbery.

On trial before Judge Kate Pillay and assessors are Funokwakhwe Ncwane (42) and Muntukayise Ronald Ngubane (35) of Umlazi.

Haller said that as he fled from the gunman, he turned his head and saw the gunman point the firearm in the direction of the reception desk where Ingrid Schadle had been working. Then he heard the shot.

Haller said he ran to the bar in the basement to press a panic button, and chased patrons from the bar outside, before returning upstairs to the reception area. As he got there, a second man came running out of an office with a weapon in his hand. The man ran past the counter and also fired a shot as he ran out of the hotel.

Haller said he didn’t know in which direction the man fired.

Haller ran behind the reception counter to where Ingrid Schadle lay on the floor and checked for her pulse. It was very weak and she died in a short while, he said.

Haller said he saw a wound on Ingrid Schadle’s left shoulder.

Siegfried Schadle lay dead near the entrance to the reception area, he said.

Haller said the first he knew of the attempted robbery was when he heard the sound of a gunshot while he was in the kitchen. He went to investigate and came across the intruder holding a gun.

“At that moment I was very shocked… I looked into the man’s eyes and I didn’t know what to do. While I was watching him in the eyes I was thinking what I could do to save myself,” he said, speaking with a strong German accent.

The Schadles’ son, Chris, also a part owner of the hotel, said they had just sold the hotel when the incident happened. His parents were due to go away on holiday the next day.

He denied the version given by Ngubane — a former employee at the Wartburger Hof — that Chris Schadle had accused him of stealing meat from the hotel and that he had terminated his services.

Chris Schadle said he was not at the hotel on the day Ngubane was referring to, but said Ngubane had been dismissed by his father.

The court heard evidence previously that Ngubane was angry and, when he left, told the “boss” they would “meet later”.

Giving evidence on Friday, Ngubane confirmed his earlier admissions that he planned the robbery, but said he told his accomplices not to shoot anyone.

“I said we do not have to kill these people because they are old. The firearm will only be used to threaten them.”

Under cross examination by state advocate Gert Engelbrecht SC, Ngubane said he had never heard of robberies going wrong and victims being killed or injured if they resisted. He had only heard about robbers being shot by police.

This reply prompted Judge Pillay to ask him if he had lived in South Africa all his life, to which he replied that he has.

The case is proceeding.

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