Trigger-happy robbers also guilty of murder

2012-01-20 00:00

FIVE men were found guilty yesterday of brazenly robbing Aheers Superstore in Greytown just metres from the local police station, and other charges including the murder of a police officer and his colleague.

The court found Tholinhlanhla Zuke, Mbongeni Zungu, Musawakhe Maphumulo, Siyabonga Cebekhulu and Wiseman Zuke were part of a gang of about 12 heavily armed men who came from Johannesburg to rob the store on November 28, 2007.

Acting Judge Kobus Booyens, sitting with assessors, said the whole operation had been planned and executed in military fashion.

Greytown police dog handler Ageet Mewa was shot dead and his colleague, Navin Maharaj, was wounded when the “trigger happy” robbers opened fire on their vehicle as they drove past the robbery scene, even though the officers were oblivious to the robbery in progress.

The court also convicted the five of the murder of one of their own gang members, Cijimpi Mdlolo, who was caught in the crossfire in a later shoot-out between police and gang members.

Booyens said the accused were all heavily armed with AK47 rifles and handguns.

Under the circumstances they must have foreseen the possibility that police would attempt to thwart them and that someone could die.

The accused were also found guilty of robbing a private security guard, Yogamberem Kariem, of his service pistol and of hijacking three motorists, Musa Majola, Vukani Buthelezi and Nivash Janki, while making their getaway from the crime scene.

An accomplice, Bheki Xulu, who gave evidence for the prosecution, said he was one of the getaway drivers parked nearby to ferry the robbers from the scene, but he panicked and left them behind when he heard gunfire.

The court accepted Xulu’s evidence as being reliable and honest.

Booyens said it was significant that the robbers appeared to have anticipated the possibility that police might try to foil their plans, and had placed some members outside to thwart them.

The court also took note of the fact that the two police officers who were shot at did not even try to apprehend the robbers, and were not even aware of the robbery going on, when they were fired on.

According to Xulu’s evidence the robbers had planned in advance that if they were left stranded (by the getaway vehicles), as in fact happened, they would hijack vehicles to escape. Sentence will be passed in the case today.

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