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Non-paying customer gets mechanic arrested

Industry news

Cape Town – Ebrahim Hendricks, 49, a backyard mechanic from Silver City, Tafelsig, was arrested for stealing a car he repaired for a client who vanished two months ago.

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Hendricks replaced the car's ECU, cylinder head, one front wheel bearing and reprogrammed the key. Picture: Bertram Malgas

Hendricks, who has more than 20 years’ experience, says he was approached by a woman in the community to fix her car.

“She came to me in January with her broken-down Opel Corsa, asking me if I could fix it for her,” he said. “I worked on the car for two weeks before I got it up and running.”

He replaced the car’s ECU, cylinder head, one front wheel bearing and reprogrammed the key; the parts alone cost him R10 265.

He contacted the woman to pay and collect her car, but she told him she had moved to the Eastern Cape.

“I was so surprised," he said, "because I needed my money.”

The woman, known only as Lolo, told him her mother would pay for the repairs – but the mother did not pay as promised and Hendricks didn’t hear from Lolo for two months.

He said: “I went to Mitchells Plain court and the Traffic Department to find out what I must do with this car standing in my yard."

They advised him to place advertisements in two newspapers, telling the owner to fetch the car.

An angry Hendricks said: "I was upset because I had to spend R550 of my own money to place these ads in the paper!”

Arrested

Hendricks parked the car at a friend’s house for safekeeping while he worked on other cars. Then, last Wednesday, police arrived at his house with the owner, demanding he show them the car and return it.

He said: “I told them that I have the car, but would only give it back once I have my money.”

Hendricks took police to where he was keeping the car, but before he knew it, he was arrested for theft and taken to the Mitchells Plain police station.

“I gave the detective all my receipts," he said, "and she called the businesses to verify them.”

Hendricks was kept in the cells for five hours before being released.

“All I want to know is why I was wrongfully arrested," he said. "I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Hendricks has now hired a lawyer to try to get his money back.

Police did not respond to queries by the time of going to print.

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