by Zainul Dawood
Durban - An officer believed to be a member of the Durban flying squad and an unidentified man were shot dead in a shoot-out with the police early on Friday morning.
Four other suspects were arrested after a robbery at a local supermarket in Bertha Mkhize Street on Friday morning.
Two of the four were arrested after being stopped while driving past the scene. Police flagged them down, searched them and found two firearms.
“We believe they are linked to the robbery at the supermarket. We found some goods that we believe were taken from the store inside the car. We also found airtime vouchers. Police found a revolver on one of the men,” Zwane said.
Police believe a gang of armed robbers, allegedly working in cahoots with the officer, kidnapped some security guards at the arcade housing the supermarket last night while the other group remained behind interrogating another guard about the layout of the arcade.
Provincial police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane, however, could not confirm the numbers in the drama: “At this stage we are not sure how many guards or how many suspects were involved.”
The guards were taken to an unknown location in Durban. The robbers had allegedly used at least four different vehicles.
“The suspects worked in groups. One group left with the guards while the other remained and gained entry into the offices. They cut open the safe and took an undisclosed amount of cash,” Zwane said.
He said after the police were alerted to the robbery, while en route to the scene they spotted a white Toyota Etios in Umgeni Road. When they tried to stop the vehicle, four men in it opened fire and a shoot-out ensued.
The driver of the Etios lost control and overturned down an embankment near a municipal parking lot and minibus taxi rank.
“Police found two dead men while two others were wounded. Police found two firearms and electrical detonators,” he said.
A police source with knowledge of the incident said one of the two deceased was a member of the Durban flying squad whose role was to intercept communication between police and the security company, whose members were held hostage by the gang late on Thursday night.
The gang kept a security guard with them, the man they interrogated for the layout of the arcade.
The source said the dead police officer had a police radio with him, which he used at least twice to stand down police responding when the supermarket alarm was triggered.
The suspects are believed to be between 20 and 30 years old. The two wounded suspects were taken to hospital under police guard. Police said the Etios was a hired car.
A source said the police emergency line 10111 had received a call last night after 10pm of a possible robbery or break-in at the supermarket. It is believed one of the guards had pressed the panic alarm.
When the armed reaction guards reached the scene it is alleged the guards at the site said everything was okay.
It is alleged by the source that the emergency line heard a call on the police radio from a policeman stating that he attended the scene and all was in order.
Close colleagues as well as co-workers of the dead police officer who arrived at the scene were shocked at the news of his death and possible involvement in the robbery.
Zwane said these allegations would be investigated.