Cops gun down crooked cops

2019-10-04 13:00
The Dalton Post Office remained closed on Thursday after it was broken into and money was stolen. It is suspected that the two police officers who were killed in a shootout with other police might have been involved in the robbery.

The Dalton Post Office remained closed on Thursday after it was broken into and money was stolen. It is suspected that the two police officers who were killed in a shootout with other police might have been involved in the robbery. (Nompilo Kunene)

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Shock swept through the tiny village of Dalton on Thursday as news spread that two local police officers had been linked to a break-in at the local post office and were gunned down in a shootout with other police.

The officers, Sergeant Celani Gwamanda (40) and Constable Nonhlanhla Mngoma (33), died at the scene. Ironically it appears that the perpetrators of the break-in did not stand to gain from the crime as it was confirmed by national police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo that a bag full of ink-stained cash, along with housebreaking implements and firearms, were among items recovered from the police van.

Sources said the scene was gruesome. Mngoma died inside the police van and her colleague died next to the vehicle. More suspects are still being sought in the case and sources close to the investigation were confident that more arrests are imminent.

The drama unfolded in the early hours of Thursday. Brigadier Naidoo said the two were shot after the police van was spotted by a team comprising the Hawks, the National Intervention Unit (NIU) and others.

Sources told The Witness that the teams had been alerted that people believed to be responsible for a series of break-ins in the district were en route to a safe house in the Seven Oaks area at the time and police lay in wait.

“At about 2.30 am, the team was on the road between Greytown and Dalton when they spotted a police patrol vehicle approaching them,” said Naidoo.

When the team tried to flag them down the sergeant in the van “allegedly opened fire on the team, which had to return fire,” said Naidoo. Both police officers were killed in the shootout.

An angle grinder, jackhammer and other implements and items such as ink-stained cash were found inside the patrol vehicle.

“It is believed that the cash may have been stolen from the Dalton Post Office earlier,” added Naidoo.

The Dalton Police Station partrol van that the two officers were travelling in when they were killed in a shoot out with other police.

A source said four handguns were recovered at the scene. Two were state-owned firearms and two were unlicensed and the serial numbers had been erased.

Sources said the Dalton officers were believed to be linked to several other break-ins and robberies at different stores and businesses in the Dalton area­.

Another police source told The Witness that there had recently been a previous break-in at the Dalton Post Office, and it so happened that the two officers who were killed on Thursday, were also on duty on the night of that burglary.

“The first robbery happened on the shift of the same two officers. When the security guard at the post office tried to call the station, the phone lines were down and there were reports that a police van was seen leaving the scene that night.”

A jackhammer that was found in the back of the police van.

The Witness was also told that the security guard who was on duty when the post office was broken into on Wednesday night was detained on Wednesday morning for questioning.

“Apparently the security guard went to the police station, which is a short walking distance from the post office, at around 8 pm to report that he was scared of working alone on Wednesday night. The police told him to go back to work and to call them if he heard or saw anything suspicious.

“The electricity was cut off just before the robbery at the post office and the security guard abandoned his post and went home. He was arrested this morning,” said the source.

The post office remained closed on Thursday. When The Witness arrived there on Thursday, the entrance to the post office was cordoned off with police tape. Police officers were seen carrying evidence bags to their vehicles while people looked on.

Two nuns told The Witness that they were hoping to draw their pensions at the post office on Thursday morning.

“The police told us that there was a break-in and a lot of money was stolen. I guess we have to go withdraw money somewhere else, but we don’t trust these ATMs,” said one of the women.

Stained money suspected to have been stolen from the Dalton Post Office was found in the back of the police van.

National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole expressed disappointment in the alleged involvement of police in the crime.

“The involvement of police officers in criminal activities will never be tolerated,” he said.

Sitole said he has directed a thorough investigation into the matter.

“All persons involved, including police officers, must be brought to book,” he said.

News24 reported that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has been assigned to investigate the shooting of the two police officers. “IPID are currently at the scene. This is a developing story. Nobody is arrested [sic],” IPID spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said on Thursday.

Seisa told News24 IPID received a report of police action that resulted in death after “two alleged robbers were shot and killed”.

“The information is that National Intervention Unit members were responding to an imminent armed robbery in the area when [the] shooting ensued between the robbers and the police which resulted in the death of two ‘police robbers’.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime
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