Winterton ATM blast

2010-01-25 00:00

A FARM labourer who stumbled across the scene of an automatic teller machine (ATM) bombing in Winterton had a lucky escape when he was shot at and robbed of his vehicle ignition keys by two members of the robber gang.

The Witness learnt that the labourer, whose identity has not been revealed by police for his safety, was en route to his employer’s farm in the early hours of Saturday morning when two men with rifles — thought to be AK-47s — flagged him down.

When he failed to stop numerous shots were fired at his bakkie, which was struck at least four times.

He was not injured however. In response to the gunfire he immediately stopped and the attackers stormed up to him.

They removed the keys from the ignition and fled in the direction of the ATM.

It is believed that at that stage the blast had already occurred as the man reported that he saw dust in the vicinity before a group of men fled the scene.

An off-duty policeman who heard the explosion and gunfire allegedly fired shots at the fleeing suspects.

The ATM was extensively damaged by the blast and a substantial amount in damaged and scattered notes was recovered by investigators at the scene.

KZN provincial police spokesman Superintendent Vincent ­Mndunge said it was reported to police that the robbers made good their escape with an estimated R270 000 in cash.

They fled the scene in what was believed to be a white Corsa bakkie and a white Cressida sedan.

Mndunge said it is not known exactly how many robbers there were, but there was a “group”.

He said members of the public order police unit who were staying in a nearby hotel heard the explosion which occurred at the Absa bank ATM in Springfield Road at about 2.30 am.

”They immediately placed themselves on duty and rushed to the scene,” he said.

He said that when the police got there, the suspects had already fled. A manhunt was immediately launched for the attackers.

Members of the SAPS explosives unit as well as the Pietermaritzburg organised crime unit were called in to assist Winterton police with the investigation, but by yesterday no-one had been arrested.

Mndunge said the perpetrators can expect to face charges of attempted murder, theft and contravening the Explosives Act.

Businesses adjoining the ATM were not damaged in the explosion.

Paul Simson of the OK Mini Market next door said he became aware of the bombing only when he got to work.

For him and his staff it was business as usual, despite the night’s dramatic events.

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