Police arrest 3 suspects linked to kidnapping syndicate in North West

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Police have made three arrests.
Police have made three arrests.
Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais
  • According to police, the syndicate targeted hitchhikers, stealing their belongings and holding them for ransom.
  • Police have linked the syndicate to at least 12 different cases in the province. 
  • Mineworkers were the syndicate's main target, police said. 

Police in the North West have arrested three suspects believed to be linked to a kidnapping syndicate that targeted hitchhikers and held them for ransom.

In a statement on Sunday, police said they believed the arrests had "broken the back of what appears" to be a syndicate linked to at least 12 kidnapping cases in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District.

Police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said that police traced the suspects along the R502 road linking Potchefstroom and Orkney on Friday night.

"Two foreign nationals, aged 24 and 37 years of age, were found travelling in a motor vehicle matching the description of a vehicle wanted in a case where a Post Office employee was kidnapped last Wednesday," Mathe said.

During a search of the vehicle, police allegedly found several items belonging to another victim who had been kidnapped on Thursday.

"In this matter, a ransom demand was also made to the family of the victim. The team immediately dispatched a search party to rescue the victim who was found at a stadium in Orkney."

Police later arrested another 57-year-old foreign national at an undisclosed address. Mathe said they had been investigating information about a number of different addresses.

"At this address, police seized two other vehicles believed to have been utilised in the commission of other kidnapping cases as well as sixteen mobile phones believed to be belonging to victims in these cases."

Modus operandi 

According to police, the syndicate had mostly been operating in the Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Orkney and surrounding areas, targeting members of the public who were hitchhiking.

Their main targets had been mineworkers, Mathe said.

"The syndicate would lure unsuspecting victims from hitchhiking spots under the pretence of transporting them to their various destinations. Victims would then be robbed of their personal belongings, followed by ransom payment demands that were made to their families for their safe return."

Mathe said that during an analysis of this modus operandi, police linked the syndicate to the kidnapping of 12 other people and the Post Office employee, who was released after the ransom payment was paid.

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In the 12 other cases, the victims were also robbed of their personal belongings, and a ransom was demanded for their safe return.

"The possibility of effecting more arrests and linking these suspects to more cases cannot be ruled out," Mathe said.

Outgoing national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, commended the team's efforts, led by North West police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Sello Kwena.

"The swift and collaborative approach by members of this multi-disciplinary team consisting of members of the North West Crime Intelligence, the Murder and Robbery Unit, the provincial narcotics team, as well as visible policing teams attached to the Orkney and Khuma police stations ought to be commended," Sitole said.

"We will continue to mobilise resources to capacitate our specialised units with a view of improving policing interventions in order to ensure that our interventions respond to the ever-changing crime trends."

The suspects are due to appear in the Orkney Magistrate's Court on Monday, facing kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery and possession of suspected stolen goods charges.   

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