Cape Town – South African extreme swimmer Ryan Stramrood became the latest victim of a spate of house robberies currently plaguing the upmarket suburb of Constantia in Cape Town.
Stramrood had been carrying fitness supplements in a box for a preparation race, when three men ambushed him at his car near his home early last Saturday around 06:00.
It is believed the attackers gained entry by cutting a hole in the perimeter fencing of the security estate where he lives.
The swimmer, 42, told News24 on Friday he was lucky to be alive.
"As I got to my car, I opened the boot and three guys were metres away from me," he said.
"One guy put a gun to my head and another a knife to my side and said 'money, money, money'.
"They took everything, they took my watch off my arm and it lasted about two or three minutes outside."
Just before it was over, they asked him who he lives with.
"I was truthful and said I live alone," he said, as his 4-year-old son stays with his mother.
Tied up, gagged
Thereafter the robbers took his house keys and walked him back to his unit in a complex.
They walked him to his bedroom. While one of the robbers held a gun to his head, they ransacked his house and stole computers, laptops, hard drives and phones.
He managed to convince the men not to take his credit cards, as they would just be traced.
"They agreed, and threw the wallet back at me, and that was first time I realised maybe they just wanted money and I might get out of this. I was really worried how this was going to end."
While the robbers were in the house, Stramrood said they looked relaxed, and took their time taking items from the house, including four hard drives that contained "the past 20 years of my life".
"They tied me up in the bedroom with shoelaces, and they put a gag in my mouth. But just before that, I said they mustn't take my phone because it would be traced.
"It was the scariest time not being able to see, and they gagged me extremely tightly. The more I wrestled, the tighter and tighter the gag became."
'Have a nice day'
The robbers locked his bedroom once they were done, leaving a blindfolded and bound Stramrood inside.
"One guy actually said 'have a nice day', and then I heard them leave the house and drive off."
A relieved Stramrood managed to remove the blindfold, and with his tied hands, used the phone the robbers had left behind to call the police and his friend.
Stramrood said he believed they weren't professionals, and were more than likely opportunistic.
"I'm alright. It certainly rattled me but I'm not stirred. I just walked out at the wrong moment and it was just bad luck."
Stramrood and his friend went for a therapeutic swim later that day, providing him with "ocean therapy".
He said his extreme swimming hobby helped provide him with the mentality to remain strong in life-threatening situations.
Stramrood, who is also an inspirational speaker, said he could channel a horrific incident towards something positive.
Robbers 'knew what they were doing'
Diepriver police spokesperson Keith Chandler told News24 on Friday that Stramrood's robbery could be connected to a string of similar house robberies over the last six months. All had the same modus operandi.
"We can't rule it out," Chandler said.
"The facts in this case show perpetrators who knew what they were doing. They were methodical and they targeted quick 'cash-turn' items [such as televisions and phones].
"There were no fingerprints, so it's a thin line to draw a conclusion immediately. But there were similar motives."
No one was seriously injured in any of the incidents, Chandler said.
"Our advice for now is that it's better to give up your possessions than your life," he added.
Captain FC van Wyk told News24 on Friday that there were no new developments to report since Saturday, and investigations continue.
Anyone with information about the crime could contact Detective Warrant Officer Steven Young at 021-710-7342.