Mall’s shock Taser attack

2013-11-05 00:00

A SECURITY guard had to watch through a locked glass door yesterday as a woman was “Tasered” and robbed in front of him at the Liberty Midlands Mall.

In what is believed to have been a carefully planned heist at 8.30 am, two men grabbed a Steers staff member in the centre of a mall corridor, shocked her on the neck with a Taser-style electric weapon, and robbed her of a bag filled with the restaurant’s weekly takings.

The woman, Nonkululeko Thaver (27) — who was on her way to deposit the cash at the Standard Bank branch — was seen calmly serving customers at her post just two hours later.

A security guard inside the Mr Price shop opposite, Robert Ndlela (26), said he saw two casually-dressed men wrench a brown bag from Thaver’s arms, and then watched her collapse.

However, he said the still-locked Mr Price doors meant he could only shout and wave at her attackers just a few metres away, before pounding on the glass in frustration.

“Afterwards, I felt a shock in my stomach that I could not help her, even when she awoke,” said Ndlela, who lives in Mafakathini. “At least, a man who was drawing cash [at the ATM machines] came to help her, but these guys got away.”

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a “large amount of cash” was taken, but declined to reveal the figure.

Zwane said, “Both suspects fled from the scene. It is believed that a Taser gun may have been used in the incident.”

Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, said the robbery was “of particular concern” because, “As far as I am aware, this is the first robbery ever at the mall; it has a very good [security] record. We would definitely not expect a robbery like this in that environment.

“Maritzburgers love their mall, and the [Liberty] mall has always felt completely safe,” she said.

Veness said she had received “a direct assurance” from police that plain clothes officers would be deployed to the mall partly as a result of the robbery.

“The police presence around the mall will be upped anyway ahead of the Christmas season, but we have been told there will be an immediate response to this incident, including a plain clothes presence.”

Captain Zwane said two suspects were being sought.

However, another eye-witness, Slindile Mkhize (26), said she believed a third accomplice dressed in khaki clothing may have been guarding the doors to the mall’s Entrance 2.

Mkhize — an enquiries clerk at Absa — told The Witness that Thaver called out for help, “and then walked away with a limp”.

“We were shocked — it happened so fast,” said Mkhize. “They grabbed the bag and raced out; a security guard ran [to the exit that they had used].”

Mall manager Umi Khan said: “The centre will also ensure that both visible and undercover security will be increased in the lead-up to the festive period as is the case every year. [We] urge all to be especially cautious and aware at this time of year and to report any suspicious behaviour to the centre’s security personnel immediately.”

The robbery was so efficient that there was little public evidence that any incident had occurred after the robbers made their getaway through the parking lot.

At 11 am, two Protea Coin cash-in-transit guards — standing on the spot where Thaver fell, some 40 metres from Steers — said they had no idea an armed robbery had occurred there earlier.

Meanwhile, Kavir Zia, a clerk at the Copper Chimney in the mall’s food court, said the only evidence he had seen was a visit by one policeman to the Steers outlet.

Both police and centre management declined requests from The Witness to release CCTV images of the robbery.

However, Veness said: “I have been assured that the police have very good footage. It’s important that criminals know they will be caught by cameras at this mall.”

Police yesterday appealed to anyone with information to contact the Pietermaritzburg police station or crime centre on 033 845 2420/ 2442 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

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