Detective nabs cell thief

2016-11-28 10:27
Nottingham Road police detective Warrant Officer Sikhumbuzo Mdunge holds a cellphone similar to the one stolen during a farm attack in 2013. Mdunge managed to track the robber calling him and posing as a long-lost friend.

Nottingham Road police detective Warrant Officer Sikhumbuzo Mdunge holds a cellphone similar to the one stolen during a farm attack in 2013. Mdunge managed to track the robber calling him and posing as a long-lost friend. (Ian Carbutt)

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A wily detective posed as the long-lost friend of a farm robber in order to track the suspect down.

He eventually nabbed the man and secured a conviction and maximum sentence.

The detective would frequently call the cellphone that the suspect had stolen from an elderly couple in the Nottingham Road area, casually making small talk in a bid to track the GPS coordinates of the robber.

The crafty efforts of the seasoned detective, Warrant Officer Sikhumbuzo Mdunge from the Nottingham Road police station, recently resulted in the robber being convicted and sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment.

Mdunge told the The Witness that his success is due to his work ethic of treating his suspects “well”, befriending them in return for their assistance in providing information on prospective criminal cases. Mdunge’s most recent accomplishment resulted in the arrest of Velaphi Magubane, who was convicted on two counts of attempted murder and one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances after he broke into the Nottingham Road home of Kenneth and Audrey Twort in 2013.

Magubane attacked the Tworts at their home on Onverwacht Farm. He wore a balaclava to conceal his face and opened fire on the couple, shooting Audrey in the chest. When he turned the gun on Kenneth, it jammed.

Magubane then grabbed a gas cylinder and rammed it into Kenneth’s head, incessantly beating him with the bottle until he stopped moving.

Magubane fled the house, only stealing Audrey’s cellphone. Audrey spent four days in an intensive care unit and another two weeks recovering in hospital after the attack while Kenneth was discharged on the same night. The case was handed to Mdunge, who worked tirelessly to recruit and secure an informant within 17 hours of the attack. Mdunge tasked his informant to monitor Magubane’s movements and soon discovered that the robber was moving around the township areas between Nottingham Road and Ladysmith. As a last resort — after Magubane had changed the SIM card in Audrey’s phone — Mdunge traced the current cell phone number and called Magubane directly.

“I called him up and posed as a long- lost friend, even though he could not recall my name. But I was friendly and convinced him that we went to school together. I called him often, which also gave me the chance to trace his location,” Mdunge said.

“I used to ask him where he was living and what job he had. I even set up an appointment to meet him once but he never pitched. After that, I revealed my true identity and asked him to come in for questioning but he refused my calls.”

After he skipped from town to town for more than a month, Mdunge finally traced and arrested Magubane at the Ntabamhlope township near Ulundi in April. Although Magubane had abandoned Aubrey Twort’s cellphone, the call records and GPS tracking provided a concrete link to the case.

After months of court appearances, the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court recently sentenced Magubane to a total of 35 years’ imprisonment, 10 of which will run concurrently. The effective term therefore is 25 years.

He will be joining his brother, who is currently in jail for 25 years after being found guilty for a separate farm attack in Mooi River. Mdunge, who has been in the force for 29 years, said he has lost count of the criminals he has put behind bars.

Nottingham Road police detective Warrant Officer Sikhumbuzo Mdunge was widely complimented for his dedication in solving the case. In a letter to the station, the victims of the farm attack, Audrey and Kenneth Twort, said they were both “impressed and satisfied” in the manner in which Mdunge conducted the investigation. Speaking to The Witness, Kenneth said the public is lucky to have officers like Mdunge in the police.

Read more on:    nottingham road police  |  pietermaritzburg  |  good cops

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