It was madness

2009-06-27 00:00

HIJACKING, armed robbery and murder suspect George Swarts showed there is little honour among thieves as he stood outside Durban Central police station, blaming his 25-year-old lover for his facing life behind bars.

Swarts and his lover, Beryl George, made a brief appearance in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday after Durban police arrested them late on Monday night.

The pair have been charged with the hijacking of four young men in Lenasia South.

They also face charges of kidnapping and murder. It is believed that after hijacking the four men, George, Swarts and another man forced them into their car boot, then took them on a 16-hour hell ride from Gauteng to Durban along the N3. They would periodically open the seat flaps into the boot to assault their victims and demand credit card PIN numbers.

Their accomplice — who police have not identified yet — is believed to be on the run.

After having been imprisoned in a stifling boot for 16 hours the young men escaped when their tormentors abandoned the car they were imprisoned in. After struggling to free themselves from the boot, the young men found themselves in the middle of an informal muti market in the Durban CBD. Sadly it was too late for Dexter Govender, who collapsed and was pronounced dead on the pavement after having been suffocated in the boot.

Clearly scared, Swarts spoke in a soft tone as he waited to be booked into a police cell on Tuesday morning: “I knew the police were going to come for me. The police always come after you when you do something big like this. Hey, I regret it now because I know I am going to jail. But I looked after those charous. I sat in the back seat while Beryl was in the passenger seat. It was Beryl’s idea to kill them. She kept saying that we need to get rid of them and I kept them alive. I bought them water and kept opening the flap to give them water and air. I don’t know why I went along with this. It was madness, I think. Beryl had the idea and I just went along with her. It was stupid. I don’t do drugs. I’m not mad but I can’t explain why I did this.”

Swarts asked anyone who would listen if his previous conviction for burglary would prevent him obtaining bail. “It was a suspended sentence. I burgled some black ous long ago and the sentence is over. I’m not a violent oke. When I burgled the black ous I made sure there was nobody home. I’m a peaceful oke. I have a trade, I’m a shopfitter but I haven’t worked for a while.”

Covered in crude tattoos depicting grisly scenes, Swart looks like a gangster — though he denied being a gang member or having spent time in prison. On his back he has a giant crucifix with the Grim Reaper behind it. His stomach has tattoos of various ghouls, while his shoulder and arm has a tattoo of a pair of crossed AK47 rifles on top of a skull over the name of his son, Laaic.

“We came to Durban for a jol. It was Beryl’s idea. She and the other oke, they planned it all.

He had the gun and he took all the credit cards when we left him at Gateway. We left him at Gateway, took our share of some of the money we had taken from the charous, and then we left. Beryl wanted to kill the charous, but I looked after them. We drove to town and then left them in the car. They were all alive when we left. After we left them we booked into a hotel in Fisher Street. We stayed there a few days and then we moved to Beryl’s aunt’s pozzie. We were going to hand ourselves in. We wanted to go back to Jo’burg to hand ourselves over, though. We wanted to be in Jo’burg where we could be with our families.”

Swart’s version of events is completely different to that of his victims — who claim they were beaten ¬repeatedly and denied air in the stifling hot boot.

Detective Inspector Keith Caswell of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Project Unit’s field unit told Weekend Witness that since last Friday morning — when Dexter Govender died on the pavement — he had been on the trail of the hijackers:

“On hearing of the hijacking and murder, I tasked all my informers and sources with trying to track down the suspects. During the hijacking, the female accomplice of the hijackers used her real name and it didn’t take long to establish that a woman by that name was on the run in Durban.”

The pair had used their real names when checking into a seedy Fisher Street hotel, which is believed to have contributed to their arrests.

Dexter Govender and his cousins Claude and Gerard Govender and friend Justin Pillay were kidnapped from Lenasia South on Thursday night. The four men had earlier given a young woman calling herself Beryl a lift and given her their phone numbers. Shortly after dropping Beryl off, she had phoned the young men and asked them to come fetch her, saying she was in the company of other women. But when the young men arrived to meet Beryl and her friends, they allegedly found her in the company of Swarts and another man.

The nightmare began when the four young men were made to drive down a dark street and climb into their boot, where they would be imprisoned for more than 16 hours.

After days of working without rest, Caswell said, on Monday evening he received information that Beryl had checked out of a hotel in Durban and had moved to a relatives’ home in the company of a young man matching the description of one of the hijackers.

Caswell and Captain “Vuni” Fourie of the KZN Provincial Task Team immediately went to work — storming Beryl’s hideout with a heavily armed team of police.

Initially the home owner, Beryl’s aunt, denied Beryl was present. She then demanded that police leave their guns outside before ¬entering her home. Finally she began screaming at police to leave, saying they were scaring her younger niece. However, on searching the home, police found Beryl hiding in a cupboard and her boyfriend hiding under a bed.

After Beryl and her lover were arrested, the home owner insisted that she had told them to hand themselves over to police for the ¬hijacking. Seconds after saying this, she recanted, saying she had no idea that Beryl had been involved in a murder.

Beryl and her lover denied having any stolen property in their possession, insisting that their accomplice took all the stolen property and the gun used in the hijacking. However, a search of Beryl’s property unearthed Claude Govender’s Standard Bank garage card.

While Swarts was blaming his lover for his woes, Beryl stood staring into space and promising to co-operate with police.

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