Greytown’s bloody shootout

2015-11-21 10:46
Police examine a bullet-ridden car used by armed robbers after a fatal shootout on the R33 near Greytown.

Police examine a bullet-ridden car used by armed robbers after a fatal shootout on the R33 near Greytown. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Cars riddled with bullets holes, blood-soaked tarmac and about eight heavily armed men still on the run from police.

This is the aftermath of a fatal confrontation between police and armed robbers on the R33 at Seven Oaks near Greytown on Friday, which left six robbers dead and three more in a critical condition, fighting for their lives.

It is believed the 35-strong gang, about 20 of whom were involved in the shooting on Friday, are linked to a number of armed robberies and attacks on police across the province.

Yesterday morning, members of an elite task force — with back-up from officers of the Pietermaritzburg Flying Squad, Highway Patrol, Crime Intelligence, the Hawks and the Durban K9 unit — were tracing four vehicles believed to be used in an armed robbery in Newcastle.

It is believed the armed robbers struck a cash-in-transit vehicle in Newcastle at about 5 am, before fleeing on the back roads to Durban.

When officers tried to pull over the four vehicles near Greytown — almost 200 km away from the armed robbery — they were met with a hail of gunfire.

Officers retaliated, killing six on the spot. No police officers were harmed during the bullet-flying frenzy.

Overwhelmed by the clash, it is believed some unscathed gunmen — about eight in total — fled the scene in two vehicles.

A dangerous game of cat-and-mouse then followed as the robbers barrelled through Wartburg, then through the Swayimane township towards Durban.

All through the high-speed chase on gravel roads, police were targeted with gunfire.

According to a police source, it was a “whirl” of dust and bullets. “We were flying behind them. I kept hiding my head behind the dashboard while the guns were thundering outside. The cars were slipping and sliding on the roads and we battled to see,” he said.

“All you could hear were AK47s and police sirens. People on the roadside were running and diving everywhere.”

Police eventually caught up to one of the vehicles, a Toyota Corolla, that was left abandoned near Pinetown.

“There was blood near the car,” a policeman said.

It is believed the men abandoned the Toyota and climbed into a second vehicle, a bakkie, before fleeing towards KwaMashu.

When Weekend Witness went to print yesterday, police were still searching for a fourth vehicle and the remaining gunmen, according to provincial police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane.

Back at the scene, a long line of trucks and cars stood waiting as traffic officers blocked the road, giving investigators a chance to sift through the crime scene.

When Weekend Witness arrived at the scene, ER24 paramedics had already rushed the three injured robbers to various hospitals in the province under heavy police guard.

Zwane said two vehicles — a Hyundai Elantra and another Toyota Corolla — were recovered at the scene, along with three AK47 assault rifles and two handguns. According to a police source, it is believed the gang is a “highly aggressive” group of armed robbers behind a spree of armed robberies specifically targeting Chinese-owned businesses in the Newcastle area.

The gang is also believed to be linked to the shooting of Durban Flying Squad’s Warrant Officer Ash Ramsaken (shot in the neck in KwaMashu on Sunday) and the murder of Warrant Officer Jericho Mdletshe (gunned down earlier this week in Gingindlovu).

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  shooting

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