Metal thieves stopped short

2014-06-17 00:00

AN alert truck driver working the graveyard shift helped bring a daring getaway by metal thieves to a grinding halt.

But the robbery, which saw three suspects lift about R100 000 in reinforced steel beams from a construction site on Inanda Road, has concerned the Durban Metro Police, who admitted that metal theft of any kind was rapidly increasing and highly organised.

Just last week a main water line crossing the Umgeni River and supplying northern Durban with water came crashing down after nine cables from the suspension bridge supporting the pipeline were removed for scrap.

Two weeks ago Durban Metro and the SAPS seized 47 tons in stolen road guard railings from the port and a scrap yard in Chatsworth. The men removing the barriers had forged documents and worked openly on the roadside with all the correct tools and safety gear.

Tow-truck driver Chad Colin said at about 4 am yesterday while waiting on Everton Road off the M13 he saw a Hyundai bakkie speeding down the highway with its lights off.

“Behind it was a security van giving chase. I joined in on the chase as I figured something was up. I then managed to get hold of the police and warn them of the vehicle,” said Colin.

“The suspects were throwing metal items off the back to try and stop us chasing them. They continued at speed down Field’s Hill, with their lights off and a truck fully loaded with steel. They were drifting around the corners. It was remarkable to see.”

At the base of Field’s Hill, the gang kept on the M13. At St John’s Avenue both the SAPS Flying Squad and Durban Metro dog unit joined in the chase.

But by the Stapleton Road turn-off with the police, a tow trucker and security company from the site that had been robbed in hot pursuit, the driver of the van lost control and crashed. Miraculously none of the suspects was hurt. “When the vehicle crashed it did a 460-degree spin. One of the guys tried to run away but after two warning shots from the police he dropped to the ground and was arrested,” said Colin.

Durban Metro Police Dog Unit’s Captain Greg Beavon said the unit has made a number of recoveries in stolen metal.

“These criminal acts are organised. In this instance, it is believed that the suspects hired the van to commit the robbery. This was a planned robbery which we managed to bring to a halt,” said Beavon.

The suspects robbed a bridge building site on Inanda Road.

Site manager Mark Nott said the site’s security guard notified his security provider First In Guarding when the stock was being loaded. “We got all our stock back. If this had been scrapped they would have got not even a fifth of the value. It is worrying that scrap dealers would accept such steel which obviously looks new,” said Nott.

The suspects were charged at the Hillcrest SAPS.


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