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Durban, KwaZulu-Natal - A Bluff security guard, whose hoax bomb threats caused a busy supermarket to be evacuated three times, has admitted to making the false calls, saying he wanted to impress his boss.
Shane Muller, 25, who worked as a security guard for Pick n Pay on the Bluff, said his R2 000 a month salary was no longer sufficient to support his growing family.
Overwhelmed by his financial situation, Muller, who has a Grade 6 education, hatched a plan to get a promotion.
It was simple, he told the Durban Regional Court last week: call the police about an alleged bomb at the supermarket and assist with the search and evacuation with such efficiency that his boss would have no choice but to promote him to supervisor.
Using his cellphone from the supermarket, Muller made the first call to police on December 1.
When the police and the Dog Unit arrived, Muller helped cordon off the area and assisted with evacuating customers from the centre. After a thorough sweep, no bomb was found and the police left.
“I heard an officer Thomas say to my boss that the security guards did a very good job,” said Muller when he pleaded guilty in court last week to three counts of unlawfully and intentionally communicating false information regarding an alleged explosion.
Muller also pleaded guilty to calling police the next day about a bomb at the Oxford Fresh Market, located near Pick n Pay.
He did not assist in that operation, he said.
On December 5, after his boss commended him on his efforts during the “bomb threat” and said he would “look into” making him a supervisor, Muller made his third hoax call and assisted once again, hoping it would speed up his prospects of a promotion.
“I thought my boss would give me a raise if I did a good job for a second time,” he said.
“I can understand that you wanted to get a promotion and you wanted to be commended for your work but how does that affect Oxford?” asked regional magistrate Anand Maharaj during mitigation of sentence.
Conducting his own defence, Muller pleaded with the court not to send him to jail: “I don’t know why I did that one. That was a big mistake. I’m a good guy now. I don’t do nothing no more (sic). I will go to Oxford and tell the owner that I’m very sorry for what I did, from the bottom of my heart, I’m very sorry. On my children’s lives, I will never do it again. You can ask my neighbours. I’m a good person. I mow lawns to make extra money.”
Muller is the sole breadwinner for his parents, girlfriend, and her four-year-old daughter. His girlfriend is five months pregnant with Muller’s child.
The two met when Muller was a witness to her former boyfriend’s murder.
Prosecutor Kuveshnie Pillay said it was an extraordinary case.
“People were in a state of panic and businesses lost large sums of money,” Pillay said.
In court papers John Morton, the manager of Oxford, said the business lost about R150 000 in the 2.5 hours they were closed.
“It was a busy weekend and we were averaging close to R200 000 per hour. We managed to get the shop ready for trade and open for customers but business was slow because customers were wary to return to the shop,” Morton said.
He attributed the loss to the evacuation of the store when the hoax call was made.
Handing down sentence, Maharaj described Muller’s actions as “sheer stupidity”.
Referring to the call about a bomb at Oxford, Maharaj said: “It was of no benefit to you so I can only presume it was a big joke for you.”
Maharaj told Muller that his only saving grace was that he handed himself over to the police.
“You can count yourself very lucky that you are not going to prison today. Had the police traced or caught you and you pleaded guilty, you would’ve been spending some time in prison. But given your maturity, background and level of sophistication, you’re given one chance and I suggest you make the most of it,” Maharaj said.
Muller was handed a 10-year suspended sentence.