Serbian murders: Police team to look at spate of gangland-style killings in Joburg

2019-06-11 12:19
The car used to carry out the hit in Bryanston was seemingly set alight by the hitmen. File.

The car used to carry out the hit in Bryanston was seemingly set alight by the hitmen. File. (Twitter)

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Local authorities appear to have finally acknowledged that a series of hits in Johannesburg involving Serbian organised crime figures are not isolated incidents.

There have been at least six gangland-style murders in the city over the past two years, targeting Eastern Europeans, all bearing the same hallmarks.

To date, no arrests or prosecutions have been made but police have now confirmed that the case dockets have been centralised. A team has also been appointed to get to the bottom of the murders.

"The cases you are referring to have indeed been centralised primarily to determine if there is any link between these cases," confirmed Brigadier Vish Naidoo.

"There is currently a team comprising various experts from different disciplines of the SAPS working on these cases. We are also working with the Serbian authorities via Interpol and diplomatic channels, particularly, to assist with the notification and identification of some of the individuals involved."

The attacks have been brazen, all taking place in broad daylight. In most cases, the hitmen, riding motorbikes, used semi-automatic weapons and appeared to have had military training. 

In the latest incident in April, 59-year-old Ivan Djordjevic was shot several times after driving into the Highbury residential complex in Bryanston. The shooting was captured on CCTV.

Police have urged patience with these cases, saying crimes of this nature took time to unravel.

"When working with complex investigations it generally takes longer than your normal individual cases. Therefore, due to the complexity of the investigations it is very premature to give a single motive at this point in time.

"Although some of the victims were of Serbian nationality, we will only be able to come to a final conclusion once all the facts and information on all the cases are properly investigated and interrogated by all the different roleplayers involved," said Naidoo.

Serbian authorities in Belgrade working with cops

The Serbian Ambassador to South Africa Goran Vujicic said he and his team were co-operating with South African officials from the Department of International Relations.

He added that Serbian representatives in the country were not aware of organised crime syndicates operating in South Africa and that the use of fake identity documents was making it difficult for them.

"No, we are not aware of any particular Serbian crime organisation in South Africa. We are not even aware that all those people are here in South Africa at all times.

READ MORE: Latest hit target linked to other Serbians shot in SA 

"We understand there is quite big crime organisations in the neighbourhood, in the vicinity of Serbia as well, who might be connected to those organisations, but we do not have any particular information that specific organised crime organisations led or run by Serbian citizens are present in South Africa," said the ambassador.

"As I understand, a number of persons, who might be connected to the crime, have used false identities. In that sense, it’s very difficult to really establish anybody’s presence."

While the ambassador said he had full trust in the local police, he also expected to be informed about developments, adding that there was ongoing co-operation between the two country’s national bureaus of Interpol.

"We don’t exert any pressure on the South African police in trying to speed up any investigation, we have full trust that they’re going to do their job well. But at the same time, we expect to be informed about the motives, about any organisations."

Vujicic added that it was frustrating that these killings were taking place, particularly when the majority of the approximately 10 000-strong Serbian community in South Africa were well-established and well-behaved citizens who contributed to the economy.

Motive for the killings

Despite the public and audacious nature of the murders, the motive behind the string of killings is still not clear.

The likely driver is an ugly dispute over the drug trade, but some analysts suggest a war has broken out between two old rival groupings, which are remnants from the Baltic conflict. A number of the victims had previous associations with paramilitary organisations from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Some are wanted in their home countries and are on the run from authorities there. There is also speculation that the attacks could be to eliminate snitches or may be linked to the 2018 hit on South African state security contract agent George Darmanovic in New Belgrade.

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Read more on:    serbia  |  johannesburg

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