Four cops die in gang flush-out

2006-06-25 23:11

Johannesburg - Four policemen were killed in Jeppestown on Sunday afternoon when they were ambushed by a gang of robbers who had hit a Pick 'n Pay supermarket earlier in the day.

Police followed the gang to a hide-out in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, and a wild shoot-out ensued.

Police shot dead eight robbers and arrested 14 suspects

Inspector Frikkie van Heerden, sergeant Gert Schoeman, constable Victor Mateya and an unnamed sergeant died in the shooting that erupted in and around the house.

Van Heerden's wife, inspector Leonie van Heerden, who was on duty with him, was hit by shrapnel. Another policeman who survived the bloodbath, sergeant Wimpie van Niekerk, was wounded in the leg.

20 robbers hit supermarket

Two members of the West Rand dog unit survived the shoot-out, while 14 members of the gang, which may have carried out several attacks in Johannesburg, eventually gave themselves up.

The drama began about 09:30 when a gang of more than 20 robbers descended on the supermarket in Honeydew on the West Rand.

Robbers held up cashiers and stole tens of thousands of rands, and also wounded a shopper.

One of the robbers was wounded when police tried to stop the gang from escaping, but the others made their getaway in a BMW and minibus taxi.

Saw people with AK-47s

Members of the dog unit questioned the wounded man, and then drove to the gang's hide-out, joined by a Johannesburg flying-squad car.

When they arrived at the Jeppestown house, bullets started flying.

A witness, Emil Coxen, said he turned into the street, and saw people with AK-47s - and then the shots rang out.

Guateng police commissioner Perumal Naidoo praised the policemen's courage.

He said they died to make Gauteng a safer place in which to stay.

"They were brave guys. The robbers were heavily armed and obviously knew what they were doing."

Naidoo said police suspected the gang had been involved in other robberies in the area.

Police spokesperson captain Dennis Adriao said the trapped police were able to call reinforcements. When they arrived, they were also shot at.

The police's intervention unit and the task force were called in to try to get the robbers out of the house.

Sharpshooters and police were deployed all over the suburb and around the nearby Bertha Solomon Hall.

Must have 'small operation'

Police negotiators convinced the gangsters to surrender and task force members entered the house just after 16:30.

The injured Van Heerden and Van Niekerk, who are being treated at Milpark Hospital in Auckland Park, were in a stable condition last night, reports Waldimar Pelser.

Hospital spokesperson Amelda Swartz said Van Heerden was in a general ward, and Van Niekerk was to undergo a "small operation" on Monday morning.

She said Van Niekerk very upset by the deaths of his colleagues.