70 computers, cash stolen as robbers target several schools in city

2016-01-19 13:03
Maintenance manager Justin James stands in an empty computer room at Scottsville Primary School yesterday after the school was looted by thieves of more than 40 computers in a brazen early morning heist.

Maintenance manager Justin James stands in an empty computer room at Scottsville Primary School yesterday after the school was looted by thieves of more than 40 computers in a brazen early morning heist. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Several former Model C schools have been targeted by criminals, ­leading to the theft of more than 70 computers, cash and sports equipment, including a high-end racing bicycle.

Scottsville Primary School, Bisley Primary School, Alexandra High School and Maritzburg College were all targeted between Saturday afternoon and yesterday morning.

While not confirmed, it is speculated that the primary schools were targeted by the same gang.

It is estimated that at least 45 ­computers were stolen from Scottsville yesterday morning, while between 30 and 40 were taken from Bisley on ­Sunday morning.

And the modus operandi appears to be the same in both cases. The two schools had their alarms deactivated, and were robbed between midnight and 4 am. The robbers loaded their goods into a waiting truck, concealed from public view, which had gained ­access to the schools’ properties.

The thieves meticulously ­disconnected every computer stolen. They looted the computer rooms, ­administration blocks and safes.

Scottsville principal Bobby Nefdt said the robbers left the CCTV ­recording device, which would be ­pivotal in the investigation.

“The police have been amazing. They had a forensic team at the school looking for prints and other clues. The footage shows there were three to five men wearing overalls. At one point the suspects saw some of the cameras and simply turned them to face the roof,” he said.

Nefdt said the loss of 45 desktop computers, including monitors, would have a “massive impact” on school ­operations.

“They also stole all our ­administration computers, with the data of past and present pupils. They stole the back-up and the back-up of the back-up. We need to reconstruct all this information from our hard copies. We couldn’t even tell the parents this morning what had happened,” he said.

Nefdt said the computers were used daily by the school’s more than 800 ­pupils, and the theft was a massive blow to their education.

“It could take a while for insurance to pay out.”

He said the men gained access via the roof and must have disconnected the alarm, which had been working on Friday.

“They broke down every locked door and cut open the safe to steal cash and other items, including my laptop.”

A staff member at Bisley Primary said the school was an “absolute mess”, with items littered across the floor from the thieves’ rifling of every drawer.

Alexandra High was broken into on Saturday evening and College on ­Sunday morning.

Alexandra had a computer, and sound and sports equipment stolen, while a flat-screen television and new racing bicycle estimated to cost R35 000 was taken from College. The security company which manages both schools, Superior Security, said they could not say whether both high school thefts were linked.

SAPS Pietermaritzburg spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said officers were given CCTV footage and had started their investigations.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  theft

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