Magistrate runs thief to ground in court chase

2011-05-27 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG’S acting chief magistrate, Bessie du Preez, took on a different role yesterday when she turned the tables on a suspected thief in the court building, which lead to his arrest.

She even pursued the suspect to the basement when he jumped into a lift in a bid to get away.

The man was later charged with theft of goods allegedly taken from the office of Du Preez’s colleague, Paul van Dongen.

With a glimmer of a smile, Du Preez admitted yesterday that her action caused a “bit of a stir” among her colleagues and made her the butt of a few friendly jokes.

The incident happened early yesterday morning as she left her office on the ground floor, making her way up an emergency stairway to the second floor for a a cup of coffee.

On the second floor she noticed a man in his thirties trying to open a locked door that can only be opened using a security code.

He was carrying a radio and a multi-purpose plug.

Du Preez said she became suspicious of the man, who looked a bit “scruffy”, and asked what he was doing in the area which is restricted to staff members.

“He said he had walked through the wrong door when he was in H Court. He also said he had the items with him when he entered the building.”

Du Preez said she did not believe the man’s story and she asked him to accompany her to security and walked with him, holding onto his jacket.

She had to call down the stairway to security officers below on the ground floor and let go of the man, who took the opportunity to jump into the nearby lift.

“I ran down the stairs and informed a security officer what had happened.”

The two of them rushed down to the basement and found the man who had just left the lift.

“I noticed that he was busy fastening his waist belt. He was no longer in possession of the items.”

Du Preez said she asked the man where the goods were, but before he could reply the security officer appeared with a radio, the plug and a set of headphones that were discovered in the lift.

She recognised the radio and plug as the ones the suspect had been carrying earlier and believes he must have had the headphones hidden in his pants.

Du Preez handed the suspect over to police at court and laid a charge.

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