EXCLUSIVE: House robbery victim's hostage hell

2015-11-13 13:30
The pantry where a woman hid as her neighbour exchanged gunfire with alleged robbers. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

The pantry where a woman hid as her neighbour exchanged gunfire with alleged robbers. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

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Durban - While house robbers and a hero ex-cop traded gunfire during a Durban North home invasion, a woman who had been held hostage had cowered in a pantry.

In the aftermath of the shooting on Thursday night, in which two armed men were killed and a third lay dying outside the house, the shaken woman, Veronica Duarte, was found huddled in the dimly lit larder.

Duarte's neighbour, an ex-policeman, had been alerted by strange noises and had single-handedly taken on the gang.

Alone at home, Duarte had been on a treadmill with music blaring from her headphones which had masked the sound of the gang of four breaking down her front door.

Using hammers and a crowbar, the balaclava clad robbers had ripped a security gate out of the wall before holding her at gunpoint.

Her husband Carlos, who had been at a work Christmas function at Sun City, told News24 in an exclusive interview that his wife had been caught unawares.

He had returned home on Friday morning on the first available flight.

- Read more: Third suspected Durban house robber dies

“When the door swung open she said in that instant she thought it was me. Then they were all around her with guns,” he said.

“They pushed her into the bedroom and then kept shouting at her ‘where are the fucking safe keys’… she told them where the safe was but that I had the keys with me,” Duarte said.

The Welwitchia Avenue home on Friday bore the scars of the battle that took place outside. Spent bullet casings lay at the bottom of the swimming pool and bullet holes pock-marked the walls.

Deep red streaks of blood ran from the entry way and into the lounge, where two of the men heaved their last breath.

Casting his gaze across the bloodied scene, Duarte broke down while explaining the helplessness of the situation.

‘I immediately thought the worst’

“I was at Sun City last night and it was just around 20:00 and we were about to sit down for a Christmas dinner with all of my colleagues who had gathered for an office party.

“We had already ordered the food and I was talking to a colleague across the table. My phone was on silent but the LED was flashing and he [the colleague] said to me ‘hey your pocket is flashing’.

“I didn’t recognize the number and I was actually going to ignore it. But I had a change of heart and it was the lady who lives across the road asking if we were OK. I didn’t know what she meant until she said there had been a robbery at my home. I phoned my wife and by then everyone had arrived and as soon as she answered the phone, she burst into tears. I immediately thought the worst,” Duarte said. 

“I spoke to my wife and she was crying, but she was OK. When the shooting started, the other three ran from the bedroom and I don’t know how my wife did it, but she ran to the pantry and hid inside.

“I was stuck in the middle of nowhere and I was screwed. There was nothing that I could do. Did what could have happened to her cross my mind? Oh yeah… I know it could have been a lot worse.”

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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