Student fights off hijackers during rush hour, motorists chase down suspects

2010-04-08 00:00

A FEISTY young Pietermaritzburg student kicked and screamed as she fought off two armed men during a failed car hijacking this week.

Other motorists apprehended the suspects after 21-year-old Kathryn Queripel raised the alarm by blasting her hooter. They handed the suspects, who are both 17 years old, over to the police.

The incident happened as Queripel, who is reading for an honours degree in psychology at the University of South Africa, was waiting for the traffic lights to change at the corner of Cordwalles and Howick roads at about 5 pm on Tuesday.

“I was screaming and kicking as they were trying to pull me out of my car,” said Queripel.

She was returning from Pelham where she had visited her friend, Erika Potgieter (21), when she stopped her grey Toyota Tazz at the intersection.

She said she was not suspicious because it was early and there were many vehicles and pedestrians on the roads.

“I had just looked at the robot and then looked down when I heard someone opening my front passenger door.

“A man who had a knife in his hand came and sat on the passenger seat.

“I turned and kicked him out of the car, hard with both my feet, as he pulled me by my left arm. I was screaming loudly,” she said.

While Queripel was busy kicking her attacker, her door opened and she felt the strong hands of the second man pulling her shoulders.

“I ran out of ideas of what to do next, but I pushed my hooter with both my hands,” said Queripel.

When they heard the hooter, both her attackers fled across the street into a nearby forest. A vehicle stopped and she heard a woman’s voice shouting, “Are you okay, Kathryn?” She found it was her former psychology lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“She came to me and her boyfriend jumped out of the car and chased after the two men. Other motorists joined in the chase,” she said.

A few minutes later, the group of motorists brought the two attackers out of the forest.

They forced them to lie on the ground while they called the police. A while later Queripel’s elder sister Robyn (22) stopped her vehicle thinking that her sister had been involved in an accident.

She said all her family members, including her mother Mary (49), are still shaken by the incident.

Potgieter, who is a student at Rhodes University, said she heard about the attack at about 7 pm and drove straight to her friend to comfort her.

“I advised her that she should always keep her doors locked and windows closed. She should be the one giving me such advice because she taught me how to drive,” said Potgieter.

Craig Blore, who participated in the chase, said that when the two suspects realised that they had nowhere to run they came out of the forest.

“They walked straight up to us pretending they were also helping to chase the suspects, but we knew that they were the ones we were after and we asked them to lie down,” said Blore.

Police confirmed the incident and said the two suspects will appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court either today or tomorrow.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed the attack to contact Lawson Naidoo, the station commander of Town Hill police station, at 033 845 7787 or 082 418 8441.

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