Tears for slain cops

2012-10-08 00:00

TWO police officers dead and another fighting for his life in hospital: one killed in the line of duty and the other while trying to visit relatives.

This was the fate of three policemen in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend as, ironically, political parties called for more officers to be deployed at trouble spots to quell tensions.

Margaret Hlope, manager of a fast food outlet in New Germany that was robbed on Friday night, is convinced that one of the dead policemen saved her life.

Had it not been for Warrant Officer Ajith Krishanlal, she could have been dead today, she said yesterday.

Krishanlal and his partner, Jerome Ngoma, stumbled on the robbery and intervened. Krishanlal was shot eight times and died while being taken to hospital. Ngoma was shot four times and remains in a critical condition in hospital. Other officers, responding to their colleagues’ call for backup, shot and killed one gunman as he fled on foot. Four other gunmen, who had stormed the outlet and robbed staff and patrons, are being sought by police.

Yesterday, over 400 people gathered to lay wreaths where Krishanlal, who was married with two children, fell.

Among them was Hlope, who said one of the robbers had held a pistol to her head and asked if she wanted her children to be orphaned for the sake of somebody else’s money. All the cash had already been taken from the tills and the robber would not believe that she could not open the safe where the rest of the money now lay.

As she stood there, fearing the worst, the two detectives passed by and saw the robbery in progress.

“If it wasn’t for Krish [Krishanlal], I would have perhaps been dead today,” said Hlope.

Jacques Stephens, a police reservist and businessman, described Krishanlal as a gentle giant.

“This was a man who was dedicated to his job and I had the pleasure of working with him. They drove straight into this thing.”

Stephens expressed anger at Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) officers who attended the scene after the incident.

“I was shocked by their approach; it was simply unacceptable. They were arrogant and they contaminated the crime scene by picking up evidence with un-gloved hands,” he said.

Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the DA spokesperson on police, said that 92 police officers had been killed in the line of duty so far this year.

Kohler-Barnard added that she would call on IPID to account for its officers’ actions. “I will not let the matter drop if it is true that they destroyed evidence,” she said.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini denied that the police captain who killed one of the alleged robbers had been charged with murder.

“What the IPID did, which is normal where a person has died as a result of police action, was to register a murder docket.

“It is a known fact that the IPID has upset a lot of policemen by arresting members of the infamous Cato Manor unit. Some of their friends and supporters will go out of their way to tarnish the name of the IPID and its investigators,” he said.

While Krishanlal was remembered, another policeman was gunned down in kwaMashu.

The off-duty officer, who was not identified, was shot near the kwaMashu Hostel just after he crossed a railway bridge. Shot in the chest, the man managed to run back across the bridge, but succumbed at the foot of the stairs.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the motive for the man’s murder was uncertain.

“He is thought to have been visiting relatives in the area and was shot in a confrontation with his attackers as he crossed the railway bridge.”

Crime scene experts were seen checking the officer’s valuables into evidence, including several R100 notes.

Naicker would not be drawn to comment on whether the policeman’s murder was linked to simmering political tensions in kwaMashu.

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