Durban - Police are investigating a brazen armed robbery at a Phoenix supermarket where more than 70 terrified shoppers, including children, were held “hostage” for 15 minutes.
The drama unfolded on Wednesday evening at a Checkout supermarket in Woodview when up to seven gunmen held up customers and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
A witness, who did not want to be named, said one of the gunmen cocked the weapon and put it to the back of his head.
The 46-year-old man said his wife had been a vendor near the entrance of the supermarket for 16 years, and although there had been previous “minor incidents”, this was the first time he experienced something so serious.
“Everything was normal and I had my back to the entrance. My wife and mother-in-law were next to me at the tables outside.
“The next thing I heard was a gun being cocked and before I had time to blink I felt it pointed at the back of my head,” he said.
“The three of us were ushered into the supermarket by this man, who was wearing a balaclava.
“When we got inside I was shocked to see the entire store had been taken hostage, with everyone lying on the ground. It was unbelievable.
“There were approximately seven robbers.”
The witness added that two men guarded the entrance while the other robbers were scattered throughout the store.
He described how the men beat up the cash controller and assaulted a customer who was with his wife and child.
“I heard the tills being rattled. They kept threatening the cash controller and they began slapping her around.
“She just cried and prayed for her life,” he said.
“While all this was happening, one of the gunmen screamed at a customer to get on the floor. I think the poor fellow didn’t hear them, so the robber ran up to him and started bashing him with the butt of the gun.
“He cracked his head and cut his ear. There was blood oozing all over the customer’s face. I felt extremely annoyed that I could not help. It was really a sad sight and it happened in front of his child.”
The witness said during the entire incident he continued whispering words of support to his wife and mother-in-law as he feared for their safety.
He said the robbers ran towards the rear of the building, where they made their getaway.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed that a group of gunmen had held up the store and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
“The Checkout supermarket, located in Woodview, Phoenix, was held up by a group of men at approximately 6.15pm.
“They had firearms and they accompanied the manager of the store to demand the cash,” he said.
“Two people were treated for injuries after being assaulted by the robbers,” said Naicker.
“There were no fatalities. It is believed the men got away in a BMW and VW Polo.”
No arrests have yet been made.
A paramedic with VIP Medical and Rescue, Anneline Hansraj, said her crew arrived just after the incident and saw that many people were in a state of panic.
They began to calm them down and the medical team stabilised a man and woman who had sustained injuries.
“An Indian male had lacerations to his head and was bleeding profusely.
“The front-end supervisor was also treated. She had been hit on the eye and there was a lot of swelling around that area. We stabilised them and transported them to hospital,” Hansraj said.
Approached for comment, a Checkout duty manager, who did not provide his name, confirmed that a staff member had been assaulted but would not divulge details of the robbery.