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Johannesburg - A gang moved, stripped and emptied a car of valuables inside a Gautrain parking lot - but the agency insists it was an isolated incident in what it describes as “one of the most secure public spaces in the country”.
Kirshen Naidoo parked his car in the Sandton station parkade on Wednesday before taking the train to OR Tambo International Airport.
When he got there, he was told his flight had been delayed by three hours. He rescheduled, climbed back on the train, and went back to his car.
It wasn’t there.
“I informed the guards, who said I must have mistaken which level I parked on,” said Naidoo.
He called their supervisor. He was 100-percent certain he had parked in B1.
They agreed to check each level.
“A guard and myself went down to B3. On the far end, I saw this silver Toyota Fortuner with its rear lights on. I didn’t know if it was my car but I walked towards it. I must have been about 150 to 200m away when I saw the plates and realised it was my vehicle,” said Naidoo.
He started running towards it. A man jumped into a silver Toyota Corolla with tinted windows parked nearby and the car sped off.
Naidoo and the guard ran to the exit, but the guards there hadn’t been able to stop the getaway car. The number plates they managed to write down later proved to be fake.
Back at his car, Naidoo found the dashboard, carpets, wiring and panels stripped. The bonnet was open and the car undrivable.
A laptop bag with Naidoo’s chequebook, a phone and business documents were also taken. Just more than 90 minutes had passed since he had parked his car.
The story was first reported by EyeWitness News on Friday, but it’s his dealings with the Gautrain since then that have most riled Naidoo. He met the agency last week, looking for answers.
“The fact that they were stripping my car right on the Gautrain premises, and had the time to do so, raises lots of questions,” Naidoo said.
How was his car moved two levels without anybody noticing? How did the gang have time to strip the vehicle? How were they not disturbed by a patrolling security guard?
In the meeting with Gautrain officials, Naidoo said he was told there are no security cameras in the parkade itself - only at the entrances and exits. “They were very evasive,” he added.
“I wanted an explanation how this happened, but they kept telling me that ‘statistically speaking’ the parkade was very safe and that incidents like these are far more common at shopping centres.”
It was the same response the Gautrain gave The Star: “Is there really a story here?” asked spokesman Errol Braithwaite.
“Over 8 000 cars park at our stations every day. Do you have any idea what the stats are for car parks at any of our major shopping centres?”
The agency said the stripping was an isolated incident. “Our stats speak for themselves.”
Of the 12 million Gautrain passengers over the past year, only one was physically endangered.
“In the same period, only about 20 incidents of property crime have been reported,” the agency added.
“These property crime incidents range from reported losses of mobile phones and personal effects to items reported stolen.”
Car theft was said to be “extremely rare”.
“By any measure, the Gautrain system is one of the most secure public spaces in the country.”
It would not say which stations were more affected as this “might alert criminal elements to security counter-measures”, but the SAPS confirmed that the Sandton station was not a crime hotspot.
Gautrain officials would also not reveal details about where security cameras are placed within the parkade, the number of security guards on duty, or how regularly the guards are supposed to do rounds.
“It would obviously be counter-productive to release the details of our security system into the public domain,” the agency said, but added that an “extremely comprehensive and integrated security system” was in place.
Available CCTV footage was supplied to the police, but no arrests had been made.