Fed-up community catches 4 robbers

2012-02-06 10:41
Pretoria - Four robbers who targeted a shop in Wallmanstal near Pretoria over the weekend chose the wrong place at the wrong time.

Residents of the smallholding community are so fed up with repeated robberies that they caught the robbers within hours themselves - with the help of a former defence force tracker and a former member of the police’s task force.

Several bakkies with smallholding residents - some claim there were up to 70 bakkies - hunted down the robbers in the Wallmanstal area.

This area has been hard hit by crime over the past few weeks after an illegal informal settlement was set up.

Store robbery

At about 16:00 on Saturday afternoon, four armed men robbed the PB General Dealers in Vasfontein of liquor, cash, cellphones and a laptop before two of them fled in an employee’s VW Golf.

The other two fled in a Nissan 1400 bakkie in which they had arrived.

The employee pressed the panic button to alert the security company. News about the robbery spread like wildfire through the community.

Piet Snyders, 49, a former tracker in the defence force, was one of the smallholding residents who reacted to the news.

Snyders said someone had seen the Golf speed away from the shop. He followed the car along with the security guards who responded to the call.

The Golf’s anti-hijacking system brought the car to a stop after about 5km. The men ran into the bushes.

Snyders called Mike van der Westhuizen, 43, a former policeman who was a member of the task force.

Several bakkies with smallholding residents rushed to the scene and blocked off streets to the east and west of the Apies River.

Snyders and Van der Westhuizen started looking for the men in the dense bushes next to the river.

By sunset they had found tracks, but these came to a dead end at the Apies River.

Jumped into the river

Van der Westhuizen flashed a light on the shore and saw the men lying under reeds. He dragged one of them out of the bush, took his weapon and searched him.

“He jumped in the water to get away,” said Van der Westhuizen.

“Peet followed him. We eventually got him out of the water and handcuffed him.”

The other robber was also dragged out of the bush and he was searched before his weapon was taken. He then also jumped in the water.

“The water is black from the sewerage and you can’t stand. I was in the water up to my chest,” said Snyders.

“It was a battle to get him out because he almost drowned. We dragged him out by his belt.”

Snyders said the two men took police to their accomplices in Soshanguwe, northwest of Pretoria. All the stolen goods were retrieved.

Snyders said the arrests were thanks to the co-operation of community members, who did something about fighting crime themselves.

“We don’t get much co-operation from the police. We are left to our own resources but we are a community that reaches out and helps each other,” he said.

Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou confirmed that the four men would appear in court on Monday in connection with charges relating to a robbery at business premises and possession of presumably stolen goods.

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