Terror gang targets the elderly

2014-04-25 00:00

A NORTHERN suburbs gang is continuing its reign of terror, targeting vulnerable elderly people with its latest victims including an 87-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man.

According to police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane, elderly people have been the victims of the robberies by the “Balaclava Gang” in Pietermaritzburg’s up-market suburbs.

The robbers have a distinctive modus operandi.

They wear balaclavas, are armed with knives or bricks and sticks, force their way into homes, tie up their victims and assault them, looting the house for whatever they can find.

On Wednesday night at 9 pm, police were called to Devonshire Lane in Hilton for a house robbery.

The owner of the house, a 71-year-old man, was busy feeding his pets when he was confronted by three robbers wearing balaclavas and armed with knives, a screwdriver and a plank. They forced him into the house, assaulted him with the plank and stabbed him on his head. They forced him to the floor and tied his hands and feet with a rope before ransacking the house.

They made off with three shotguns, a large amount of ammunition, electrical appliances, a Nokia cellphone and R4 000 cash as well as pounds and euros.

In an attack on Sunday, April 13, also at around 9 pm, a 87-year-old woman was watching TV in her house in St Michaels Road in Hilton when she heard footsteps outside the front door. Thinking it was her son, she got up to investigate and found two men wearing balaclavas and armed with knives forcing their way into her house.

They forced her to the ground and bound her hands and feet with strips of material from a towel. They ransacked the house, returning from time to time to kick her.

Zwane said the robbers made off with a microwave, a kettle, a gold wedding ring, a ruby ring, a Pioneer hi-fi, sunglasses and a Samsung cellphone.

The woman was left with bruises on her neck and body and cuts to her forehead and right leg.

Contacted yesterday, a man whose elderly father had survived an attack by men believed to be from the same gang recently, said his father now wore a panic button around his neck linked to an armed response, which gives him a sense of security. They had also introduced other security measures, like an alarm and a security guard at night to protect him.

He said his father, like many other elderly people, refused to leave his home.

“It’s a major issue. He’s lived there for 46 years. To move your parents to a retirement home is not always an option. He can afford to go but doesn’t want to.”

His father, a 77-year-old retired attorney, was robbed in Henderson Road by the group of men in balaclavas and gloves on April 10. The men broke in through his front door and tied him up, assaulted him and shoved him in the bathroom, demanding money, guns and jewellery. The man was only freed from the bathroom when his domestic worker arrived the next morning.

They took his TV set and cases of whiskey, and fled, only to return again on April 12, when they were scared off by the added security.

In another break-in incident in Hilton, Jared Kloke arrived at his Summit Road home in Hilton just after a break-in on the morning of Good Friday.

“This was the third incident in six months. We are not 100% safe but we don’t have an option. We can’t just sell and move.”

He said the suspects used a crowbar to open his sliding security gate.

Police have appealed to anyone with information on the gang to contact the branch commander, Detective Warrant Officer Johnson Sindane of the SAPS Hilton Detective Services at 033 845 6526 or 082 459 7454.

JANEN Scannell, who was also a recent victim of a housebreaking gang in St Michaels Road in Hilton, has praised her son Calvin, crediting him with saving their lives and that of his 73-year-old grandmother Maureen Fogwill.

Calvin is one of the boys from Carter High School who pulled an elderly woman from a burning house in Cascades on April 11.

Barely a week later, on April 19, intruders struck at the Scannells’ rented house in Hilton while they were asleep and the quick-thinking teen leapt into action again.

“He saved our lives. He woke up after hearing people on the roof, and woke me up.

“They broke the bedroom window and jumped inside the house. We ran out of the bedroom and he quickly locked them in the bedroom so they could not come to where we were, giving us time to set the alarm off.

“He saved us because they could have injured us, looking at the way they broke in.

“I am looking for another place to stay. I cannot be in that house any more. I moved out after that incident,” said Scannell.

“He’s my hero. At the age of 12, he was living in Johannesburg with his grandfather, when intruders came into their house. The robbers asked him to tie up his grandfather and they were forced to sit there for four hours during the robbery. I think this was a lesson for him in acting instinctively in emergency situations,” said his proud mom.

Asked yesterday what made him think to lock the door, he replied that it was a delaying tactic so they could have some time to think up other ways to get away from the robbers.

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