Armed men hold up supermarket

2010-07-31 00:00

A BUSY supermarket in Pietermaritzburg was robbed of about R100 000 when five armed men held up all 23 staff members yesterday evening.

The robbery took place at U-Save Supermarket in Pietermaritz Street opposite Imbali Taxi Rank as a store manager and his staff were preparing to close for the day at about 6.30 pm.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said the men, who were all armed with pistols, did not fire a single bullet. But she said they assaulted the 38-year-old store manager for trying to call for help.

Jeevan said they used an angle grinder to open one of the safes. She said the shop does not have cameras.

“One safe contained about R43 000 while another one had about R29 000. They also emptied tills, which together held between R20 000 and R30 000,” she said.

She said that when the men entered the shop they held up a security guard, cashiers and the manager. She said other workers were collected from all corners of the shop, and were forced into one room.

“They tied them with cable ties. They forced the manager to open a safe. In the process of opening the safe, the manager tried to press a panic button, which led to him being clubbed and kicked. Others were busy cutting one of the safes with angle grinder,” she said.

The men then disappeared into the thick crowd of pedestrians and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the busy Pietermaritz Street.

“Their getaway vehicle was apparently waiting somewhere. We are going to check all [street surveillance] cameras in town and take the video footage to the shop to see if workers can identify anyone,” she said.

Chubb Armed Response supervisor Timothy Thomson said that when his team arrived at the scene at about 7.35 pm the attackers had already gone.

“We were informed through a panic alarm, and we immediately arrived in two vehicles. We found the door closed, but the gate opened. The workers were all inside.

“We could not cordon off the streets because no one could tell us if the criminals got away in a vehicle or on foot,” said Thomson.

He said when his security officers got inside the shop they found traumatised workers. Attempts to speak to the manager of the supermarket were unsuccessful as police inside said he was too traumatised to speak. They ordered the reporter to leave as they said he was invading the crime scene.

A female worker said she was in a toilet on the second floor when an armed man kicked the door open. “When he banged the toilet door I thought it was one of my colleagues who was desperate to use the toilet. I said ‘wait I’m still busy’. But the door was kicked open and an armed man ordered me downstairs,” said the worker.

Another worker said he was still too traumatised to recall the terrifying event of the evening. “I was at the far end of the store on the ground floor when a man came and ordered me at gunpoint to move. I would be lying if I said there were still customers inside the shop, as I was too shocked to notice anything. But by that time we were preparing to close for the day,” he said.


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