Thugs brazenly kill two cops - Hawks hunt robbers who killed cops for weapons

2014-02-03 00:00

THREE robbers did not flee when they saw four armed police officers arrive near their hideout.

Instead, they deliberately attacked the officers in their police minibus in a blaze of gunfire, killing two police officers — reportedly in a breathtakingly brazen effort to steal their police weapons.

As a massive manhunt involving the Hawks, detectives and crime intelligence agents scoured KwaZulu-Natal last night, the father of slain constable Sibusiso Mthethwa told The Witness of his horror at the execution-style murder of “the good boy I raised”.

Mthethwa (31) and student constable Thobani Xulu (26) were killed at the road-side scene in KwaDukuza, northern KZN, before the gunmen climbed into the police van and “wrestled” a service pistol from a third police officer.

They finally fled when a fourth officer in the car returned fire. It was the second time this week in which a group of armed police officers were deliberately ambushed in their vehicles.

The killings happened just hours before the funeral of Sergeant Thami Zondi, who was killed on Monday when he and two other officers were ambushed in a quarry near Richmond while chasing cash-in-transit robbers.

Yesterday, provincial police commissioner Mamonnye Ngobeni told The Witness she had ordered a massive manhunt co-ordinated between three branches of law enforcement, “We won’t rest until these murders are arrested and dealt with by the law,” said Ngobeni.

“It is disturbing that criminals will so boldly attack police officers who are just doing their jobs.”

Echoing the conclusion reached by the police union and the KZN Violence Monitor, Mthethwa’s grieving father, Mdukeni, said he understood the robbers had ambushed the police for their weapons.

“He didn’t want people to know he was a police officer,” said Mdukeni Mthethwa. “He was respected and he respected people. Every month-end, he would come home and he would give me and his mother’s money without us even asking for it. It’s a blow to his three brothers and four sisters; a blow to the community and the state.”

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) general secretary Nkosinathi Theledi said it was not uncommon for police to be targeted for their guns.

“Stolen guns are used to terrorise the communities, so it’s up to the communities to put a stop to this,” he said. “Even police stations in various parts of the country are targeted by criminals. The act of killing police officers is mere criminality and thuggery, and only community members can come up with a solution.”

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the investigation was being led by the Hawks.

KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said police were increasingly targeted as sources for weapons, but said corrupt police officers and a lack of trust in police compounded the problem.

“It’s said that police are killed for their firearms, but unfortunately there’s a crisis in credibility in the police service,” said De Haas. “People are scared to give information to the police, because within the force there are officers who work with criminals.”

Naicker said the incident happened at 1.30 am on Saturday morning.

The four police officers from KwaDukuza SAPS were returning from KwaMaphumulo when they saw a red vehicle parked on the side of the road. When they stopped to investigate, three men charged from bushes and opened fire on the clearly-marked vehicle.

Willies Mchunu, KZN MEC for Transport, described the murders as “callous, heartless and barbaric”.

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