Couple robbed while watching son train for Dusi event

2012-01-31 00:00

A HOWICK couple were robbed of their possessions, including the shoes on their feet, by an armed gang of teens while watching their son train for the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Jeff and Fenella Speed were on the banks of the Msunduzi River next to Marianny Foley Bridge, just beyond Willem’s Shute (50 km outside Pietermaritzburg) when they were held at gunpoint on Sunday by an “aggressive” group of youths, said Dusi spokesperson Ray de Vries.

The gang included a 12-year-old, who was described by Fenella Speed “as loud, abrasive and very confident, blowing cigarette smoke in her face continuously during the incident”.

Now Dusi organisers have warned canoeists and their support teams to train in groups.

The Speeds’ teenage son was paddling behind a larger group of canoeists, who were competing in a race from Campbell’s Drift to Duzi Bridge.

As the Speeds stood watching, a gang approached them and stole a number of items, including four cellphones, a Garmin GPS, R700 in cash and even the shoes they had on. De Vries said the couple had reported the robbery to the police.

The group were aged 19 and younger.

Neither of the Speeds were prepared to speak to the media yesterday. Police told The Witness that a case of armed robbery was being investigated and that no arrests had been made as yet.

De Vries said Dusi organisers would assist the Speeds in any way possible. “If we need to assist with counselling then we will. Our head of security is working closely with the police.”

He said that the area where the Speeds were robbed was known as “bad area”.

“I have been involved in the Dusi for 18 years now and every year leading up to the event there is trouble in that area.

“Five years ago a Land Rover was hijacked in the same spot where the Speeds were robbed on Sunday.”

However, during the event the criminal element seemed to dissipate, said De Vries.

“There is a strong community policing forum during the Dusi which promotes good behaviour without using any force. The security of the paddlers is of utmost importance, and the members of the communities that the race goes through are determined to host the race without a glitch.”

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