Supermarket bloodbath

2009-04-16 00:00

Three armed robbers and a supermarket store manager were killed during a tense hostage drama at a busy shopping complex in Montclair, south of Durban, yesterday.

The drama began when five armed robbers burst into the Shoprite store in Montclair and held staff and customers at gunpoint while they demanded money from the tills.

The Shoprite store on Kenyon Howden Road soon became a battleground when police snipers and hostage negotiators entered the store.

The men fired several shots inside the store, which sent staff fleeing for cover. Outside, bystanders ran for cover after they too heard shots. Many who had stopped to watch the drama told The Witness that all they heard was screams for help and gunshots.

Some bystanders broke down as they watched paramedics try and resuscitate the store manager, Krish Pillay, who suffered a fatal gunshot.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said police entered the store and confronted the suspects, who opened fire in their direction.

“One of the bullets hit the manager. Police feared for their lives and returned the fire. Three suspects were shot dead,” he said.

Pillay, who was shot in the abdomen, was dragged outside by members of the SAPS Dog Unit.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate him, but he died on the scene.

Traumatised staff members were released after police snipers conducted a sweep of the entire building. Once outside, many burst into tears while others were too shocked to speak. Some just held each other, clearly grateful to have survived the ordeal.

Pillay’s family arrived shortly after the shooting. His wife and sisters were hysterical when they saw his body, covered in foil, lying near the entrance of the store. His bloodstained clothes were visible to the public, who congregated a few metres away.

One family member broke through the police barrier to identify the body. All she could say was “They shot him, they shot him.”

Police had to restrain emotional relatives and move them to another area so they could be counselled. Some of Pillay’s relatives just stared at his body in disbelief.

Police have now launched a massive manhunt for the two gangsters who escaped from the store.

Mdunge said a special task team will investigate the robbery and hope to apprehend the men as soon as possible.

“These suspects will be linked to other robberies in Durban. Members of the organised crime unit will be investigating,” he said.

Netcare spokesman Chris Botha said one of the staff members had a heart attack and was rushed to the nearest hospital. Another was pistol-whipped by the robbers.

The Shoprite Group expressed its “heartfelt sympathy” to its staff members and customers who suffered trauma as a result of the incident.

The group marketing director, Brian Weyers, said: “We endeavour to provide a safe shopping environment for all our customers as far as is reasonably possible, but the on-going and violent crime makes it very difficult for all South African people to work and conduct their leisure activities in a safe and peaceful environment. Along with all other businesses in South Africa, our customers, staff and security personnel are the victims of indefensible attacks.”

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