Two Hawks officers who were killed in shoot-outs with cash-in-transit heist suspects last week will be buried this week.
Detective Sergeant Wynand Herbst died a few hours after he witnessed Detective Warrant Officer Delen Grobler take her last breath next to him.
Grobler was a passenger in a car Herbst was driving when they were struck by a bullet while chasing cash-in-transit robbery suspects.
Probably determined to nab those who had killed Grobler, Herbst was part of a massive operation activated to hunt down the suspects in the heist that took place just outside Mahikeng, North West, earlier on Thursday morning.
The suspects were later spotted at a service station in Coligny and this is where Herbst’s life ended.
He was hit during a shoot-out between the suspect and the police and later died in a hospital.
Three of the suspects were also shot dead.
Messages of condolences have been flooding Grobler’s Facebook wall since his tragic death.
One message in particular, which Grobler (44), shared on July 21 2019, seems to have attracted a lot of attention. In a poster-like message bearing a police badge he wrote: “Every cop who puts this on [the badge] in the morning knows there’s a chance they might not come back at night. Let’s appreciate our cops.”
Grobler and Herbst were part of an intelligence-driven operation aimed at thwarting a planned cash-in-transit robbery and to arrest those involved.
Hawks spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said an armed gang travelling in three vehicles had on Thursday “forced cash security van off the road”. Little did they know that they have been under surveillance and police were right there on time.
“The suspects were confronted as they blew open the van. They retaliated and took off in different directions,” Mulaudzi said.
He said as the suspects tried to escape but they found themselves in a face-off with two vehicles from the technical operations management section of the Hawks.
City Press has learnt that one of the vehicles sped off towards Mahikeng with police officers in pursuit.
“The chase went through the villages nearby until they reached Mahikeng driving over the bridge that leads into town. This is where bullets flew,” a source said.
A witness, who said he was on his way to work, said he saw a “Ford Ranger bakkie hit the brakes at the intersection, faced the other direction and shots were fired towards an Audi that was following them”.
“I think one of the bullets went through the front grill and damaged it because it could not move anymore. More bullets were fired at the car,” he said.
City Press also learnt that at least two people, a taxi passenger and a driver of another vehicle passing by, were caught in the crossfire and injured.
“During the shoot-out, Detective Warrant Office Delene Grobler (44) was fatally shot. The suspects managed to flee and a manhunt ensued in earnest,” Mulaudzi said.
Mulaudzi said the police could not shoot “irresponsibly” in a busy area. “For the sake of the people, it was difficult,” he said.
He said one suspect was tracked and later arrested at a Johannesburg hospital.
“Immediately thereafter, a follow-up operation was launched in Coligny where the wanted suspects were confronted at a filling station. The suspects retaliated with AK 47 rifles fatally wounding Detective Sergeant Wynand Herbst (42),” Mulaudzi said.
He said three were shot dead while two others were seriously injured during the gun battle at the fuel station.
“Later in the evening, two suspects were traced to Ventersdorp. However, they managed to escape. So far, three AK 47 rifles, two 9mm pistols, a bakkie and a minibus have been seized,” Mulaudzi said on Friday.
Police bosses have promised not to rest until all suspects were behind bars.
“We shall hunt the members of that organised criminal group that attacked the cash-in-transit vehicle and caused the death of our members. We have recently assembled a bigger team under an experienced brigadier to deal with these matters,” said Hawks boss Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole has applauded members for a “successful implementation of the 72-hour activation plan”.
“I am satisfied with the speedy response by our members to the brazen robbery and subsequent killing of our colleagues.
“The search for more suspects is continuing and I have urged our police officers to relentlessly continue searching for the remaining suspects, while maintaining their safety,” Sitole said.