Paintball ‘pranksters’

2011-10-11 00:00

WHAT started out as a probable prank has had serious consequences for two Pietermaritzburg brothers.

Grant and Ross Whitehead of Hilton were released on warning by the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday after appearing on charges of attempted murder for Grant and reckless and negligent driving for Ross.

The Whiteheads were arrested after Grant allegedly shot at Sandile Thabethe’s car with a paintball gun at a set of robots at the corner of Pine Street and Mayors’ Walk.

Thabethe, a police K9 unit member, was returning from picking up his wife from the Pietermaritzburg FET college in Pine Street at about 7 pm.

As he left the FET premises to join Pine Street towards Mayor’s Walk, a car came from behind him, allegedly at a high speed, just before the robots turned red.

Thabethe said as he proceeded ahead an occupant in the vehicle behind him started shooting at his vehicle. The vehicle turned right into Mayor’s Walk and he made a U-turn and followed them.

“As we were waiting for the robots to turn green I heard the bangs against my car and at the same time the robots turned green. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw this person pointing a rifle and suddenly they overtook me. I gave chase and called for backup at the same time. My concern was that these boys put my wife and kid’s lives at risk,” said Thabethe.

He said the shooter’s car sped down Mayor’s Walk, forcing other motorists to give way.

It was eventually cornered in Victoria Road. When asked why they had shot at Thabethe’s car the brothers allegedly said he was obstructing them on the road.

The brothers were arrested while a third occupant was set free.

“What they did was dangerous and they were lucky that I was not carrying my service pistol otherwise there would have been a mess.

“It was a stupid thing they did at that time because all I saw was a rifle and I would have been charged for murder now. You don’t play such a silly game at that time of the day because I couldn’t tell whether that was a real gun or not. I had to take my wife to the doctor for counselling because she was so upset,” said Thabethe.

He said he was not happy because a source close to the case said the court wanted to withdraw the charges against the two on the grounds that it was just a prank.

Yet the prank could have resulted in the loss of lives, he said.

The brothers’ mother, who would not give her first name, was livid on hearing that the story was going into The Witness.

She threatened to cancel her subscription to the paper if the story was published.

She also refused to give this reporter her sons contact numbers, saying that Ross has gone back to university and Grant was driving to Gauteng.

“The cop said some nasty things to my boys and if you put this in the paper there will be repercussions as this matter is with our lawyers,” she said, asking the reporter to phone back for her husband.

On the second call, Mr Whitehead said he had nothing to say and that The Witness needed to go back to court on October 18 to get the facts straight. He then hung up.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said the brothers were released on warning and will appear in court on Tuesday, October 18.

• chris.ndaliso@witness.co.za

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