Five in court after shoot-out

2010-07-06 00:00

FIVE men appeared in the magistrate’s court at Tugela Ferry yesterday in the wake of an armed robbery at a Kranskop supermarket,

The robbery ensued in a shoot-out involving members of the robber gang, local taxi drivers and police on Friday afternoon.

Four adult bystanders and a young child were reported to have been wounded during the gun battle that erupted in Kranskop’s main street.

A high-speed chase followed as Kranskop and Greytown police pursued the 12 gunmen who sped off in the direction of Msinga in three getaway vehicles.

Five suspects were arrested — two after being shot and wounded.

A police helicopter joined the pursuit and when the robbers stopped their vehicles in an attempt to escape into a veld, one of the suspects was stopped in his tracks by a bullet fired from the air, which hit him in his leg.

A second suspect was shot and wounded in the leg by police giving chase on the ground.

There is still confusion about who was responsible for firing the shots that hit the five bystanders in Krans­kop.

Sources told The Witness they were probably caught in the crossfire between taxi drivers and some of the heavily armed gunmen stationed outside the supermarket.

The adult victims were said not to have been seriously wounded, but the child is believed to have sustained a possible spinal injury.

Details of her condition could not be ascertained yesterday.

The Witness was told that 12 gunmen arrived at the Siyabonga Supermarket and Butchery on Friday afternoon in two Opel Corsa bakkies and a BMW sedan.

The vehicles were parked outside and gunmen with rifles stood guard nearby.

About seven gang members entered the store armed with firearms, including machine guns and handguns.

The gunmen ordered customers and staff inside the shop to lie on the floor while they held up the store owner at gunpoint.

They allegedly had to walk over the bodies of the terrified customers on the ground to reach the back of the shop, where they believed the safe was located.

However, they discovered that the store does not have a safe, and that the only cash on the premises was held in the tills.

As the gang set about raiding the tills, the sound of gunfire erupted outside as alert taxi drivers became aware of the robbery and opened fire on the gunmen outside. As bullets were being fired in the street, the gang members inside the store abandoned the robbery, fled to the getaway vehicles and sped away.

Police from the nearby Kranskop police station were alerted by the gunfire and raced to the scene.

The five men who appeared in the Tugela Ferry Magistrate’s Court yesterday are: Mkulukani Ntshalingtshi (25, injured); Mlungisi Mgwaza (28, also injured), Mzwandile Mngoma (29), Musi Ndwawandwe (24) and Sizwe Ntshangase (25).

The suspects are from Ladysmith, Johannesburg and Zululand.

They were not asked to plead and the case was postponed for seven days for further investigation.

At this stage the accused have been charged only with unlawful possession of firearms, including an Uzzi sub-machine gun, a 357 magnum revolver and 9 mm pistols, as well as ammunition.

The weapons and a cellphone were among the items the police allegedly seized from them at the time of their arrests.

A hunt for the outstanding suspects continues.

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