Shootout with cops leaves eight dead

2009-01-30 00:00

A shootout with police that left eight gunmen dead and two bystanders injured in Umbilo, Durban, yesterday morning probably ended a city-wide crime spree.

SAPS spokesman Inspector Michael Read confirmed yesterday afternoon that the eight men who died in a bloody battle with police on the corner of Rick Turner (Francois) and Maydon roads were linked to at least two other armed robberies in the Umbilo area. He said their modus operandi and their vehicle, a silver Opel Corsa bakkie that had been hijacked in a separate incident, enabled police to make a positive connection.

He said the investigation into the incident is still in its earliest stages. The guns recovered at the scene will be sent for forensic tests that could link them to other crimes.

Senior Superintendent Jay Naicker said the eight bodies have been sent for postmortems. They would be finger-printed, which would enable police to ascertain whether they had previous convictions. He said that although it was difficult to get an accurate picture at the crime scene as the bodies were spread over a large area, the victims seemed young. However, it was unlikely they were first-timers.

The final showdown between police and the suspected armed robbers came after a spectacular car chase. A heavily armed gang had robbed Chicago Meats in Denis Hurley (Queen) Street of an undisclosed amount of cash and then fled along the N3 towards the Pavilion in the Corsa bakkie.

Plucky security staff gave police the description and registration number of the vehicle. This was quickly circulated by police radio and a unit that spotted the vehicle gave chase as it sped along the N3. Gang members opened fire and continued shooting as the bakkie fled towards the Pavilion, taking the Spine Road off-ramp and heading towards Cato Manor along Rick Turner (Francois) Road.

By this time, the Flying Squad, dog unit and Durban Metro Police had joined the chase.

A motorist was shot in the shoulder when a bullet shattered his car windscreen. He is in a serious but stable condition at Entabeni Hospital. A bystander was also slightly injured, said ER24 spokesman Derrick Banks.

The driver lost control of the Corsa at the corner of Rick Turner and Wisely roads. Five men jumped off the back of the vehicle and tried to escape while still firing at police, who returned fire, fatally wounding them. The three men inside the bakkie, who also turned their weapons on police, died shortly afterwards.

Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha confirmed that paramedics treated a policeman whose hand was slightly injured during the shooting.

Naicker yesterday commended police who responded quickly and continued chasing the suspected armed robbers despite being shot at.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Bheki Cele also praised the police. He said that random shooting by the gunmen along the highway could have led to far more injuries or even deaths.

“Whenever criminals reach for their guns, they will not hesitate to shoot and kill anyone who is in their way. Therefore police have every right to shoot and kill to protect themselves and those around them,” said Cele.

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