Cops run out of fuel in hot pursuit
Dries Liebenberg, Beeld
Durban - Police officers who tried to catch a suspect after an attack on a smallholding outside Empangeni had to turn around in the heat of the chase to put petrol into their patrol van.
This happened after a robber allegedly attacked Carel Bester, 74, on his veranda at the Eindhoek sugar smallholdings on Tuesday morning.
Bester said the man attacked him with a hammer and a screwdriver without any warning or even saying a word.
This was the third time in less than a week that criminals have targeted the smallholding.
His son-in-law Heindrich Wait said on Thursday he suspected the attacker had fully intended to murder Bester.
Instead the man fled with a brand new petrol-driven brush cutter when his mother-in-law, Bettie Bester, 72, locked herself into the house and pressed the alarm button.
After Wait took Bester to a hospital, he received a call that the police were at the smallholding to investigate the incident.
While he stood talking to the police officers outside, he noticed a man over the river who was watching them.
When he looked at the man with a pair of binoculars, he saw that he was holding a brush cutter.
Wait and the police officers climbed into the patrol van to drive to where the suspect had been seen.
The smallholding is about 13km outside Empangeni, but they had to drive about 35km to get to the place where Wait saw the suspect.
On their way the patrol van’s fuel light came on, showing the tank was nearly empty.
They had to turn around and the police borrowed five litres of fuel from Wait to get to Empangeni.
Wait said he was disappointed that the suspect had escaped because the driver of the police van had not ensured that the vehicle had enough fuel.
“Years ago when I worked for the department of correctional services the rule was that petrol had to be put in when the tank was half full,” he said.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said members were encouraged to be prepared for any eventuality, but he added that the officers could not be accused of having failed in their duty in this case.
Mdunge said the officers deserved praise for reacting quickly to the robbery complaint.
“If they first added fuel they would have missed the suspect anyway,” he said.
The Empangeni Residents’ Community Policing Forum, which monitors the CBD and surrounding areas, has a standing invitation to all residents and business owners “who are passionate about reducing crime levels in their town to attend the CPF meetings”.