Last puff for ciggy thieves

2016-05-27 11:16
One of the four men arrested on Wednesday surrounded by Magma Security and police officers in the Creighton area.

One of the four men arrested on Wednesday surrounded by Magma Security and police officers in the Creighton area. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - A gang that could be linked to a string of cigarette heists was taken down in a series of high-speed car chases on Wednesday.

The gang had allegedly committed an armed heist in the Harding area on Wednesday, robbing a British American Tobacco truck of R680 000 worth of cigarettes, before police and Magma Security members hunted them down.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane said the men held up the truck driver at gunpoint in the eMachunwini area and made off towards Ixopo with the loot in two vehicles.

A description of the vehicles was circulated to all police stations and law enforcement agencies in the area. Zwane said Ixopo police then received information that the robbers were racing towards their town, and a call was sent out to all officers to be alert.

Members of the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) then spotted one of the vehicles, a black Audi, and managed to pull the speeding car over. “The vehicle had three occupants inside and the driver jumped out as instructed by the officers, who wanted to search the boot,” Zwane said.

As the officers questioned the driver, one of the passengers jumped behind the steering wheel and sped off with screeching tyres.

However, their getaway was short-lived.

The officers quickly handcuffed the driver and gave chase to his accomplices, who were stopped by Ixopo police who had blocked the road. “Realising that there was no way out, they drove their vehicle into the bush and fled on foot, hiding inside the bush,” Zwane said.

Pietermaritzburg K9 officers were called, and as they set their dogs loose, one robber jumped out from the long grass and was arrested. In the meanwhile, the second getaway vehicle, a Ford Ranger, was intercepted by Magma Security in the Creighton area.

The private security team arrested two robbers there. Magma Security director Shaheen Suleiman said his team and police then followed information on the whereabouts of the stolen goods and found 23 large boxes of cigarettes stashed at a warehouse in eMachunwini, about 20km from where the hijacking occurred.

“The arrested suspects will be charged with armed robbery and will appear at the Harding Magistrate’s Court [today],” Zwane said.

Acting KZN police commissioner Major-General Bhekinkosi Langa said detectives and crime intelligence officers would trace the outstanding suspect who disappeared in the bushes in Ixopo. “We believe that these suspects might be involved in other hijackings where vehicles transporting cigarettes were robbed,” Langa said.

Last year, British American Tobacco, one of SA’s biggest distributors of cigarettes, reported 1 412 of its transport vehicles were hijacked annually. This equates to about four attacks a day.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  arrest  |  robbery

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