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Durban - Celebrity guests at the glitzy Metro FM music awards in Durban on Saturday returned to their hotel rooms in the early hours of Sunday to find their laptops, iPads, wallets, jewellery and cellphones stolen.
Idols judge Unathi Msengana, her Metro FM breakfast co-host, Glen Lewis, Sibusiso Leope (DJ Sbu) and Christos Katsaitis (DJ Christos) were among the victims of the break-in at the Hilton Hotel.
The guests, some of whom believe the theft was an “inside job”, were all booked in under their own names.
Hilton Hotel operations manager, Evan Harrington, did not respond to several telephone calls on Sunday, but the hotel issued a statement later saying it was “aware that there was an incident” on Saturday.
“All our efforts, at this time, are currently focused on fully co-operating with the police in their investigation and efforts to ensure that guests affected are assisted.”
Leope said rooms on the 8th and 10th floor of the hotel had been cleaned out of electronic equipment and other valuables. He said none of the rooms had been physically broken into and he said it was believed about 20 had been targeted.
“The doors were locked when we returned to our rooms. It seems like the thief or thieves had a master-key,” he said. “It could also be that the guest list was leaked to the thugs because they only targeted certain rooms. It was not a random thing. They seemed to know which rooms they wanted to break into.”
Leope said he had left for the awards ceremony at the nearby Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre at about 7.30pm on Saturday.
“I returned to my room around 3am. My MacBook Air (laptop) had been charging in the room when I had left. It was gone. All my data, including contacts, my work diary and other valuable information is gone with it. This was such a disappointment after such an awesome awards evening. You don’t expect this kind of thing to happen at the Hilton Hotel.”
Leope said he and the other guests had reported the incident to the hotel management.
“What is so frustrating is that there are no CCTV cameras in the hallways,” he said. “Whoever did this was well informed. I believe this was an inside job. The entire hotel was booked by the SABC. This was easy prey.”
He said he was staying an extra day to get information from police.
Lewis, who left on Sunday to return home to Johannesburg, said his backpack containing his netbook, iPad, chargers and three cellphones had been stolen. He left for the awards just before 8pm, and returned at 11.30pm to charge a battery and discovered the theft.
Lewis said he was a frequent guest at the Hilton and this was the first time such a thing had happened. “It’s very upsetting. I think this whole break-in was planned.”
He said another unnamed couple who had attended the awards had also been burgled.
Guests were interviewed by hotel security and were informed of a “breach in security”, Lewis said.
“Everyone was very upset. The hotel said they did not have any other details. They also promised to reimburse us for the stolen stuff. But I was fed-up and left for home almost immediately,” he said.
“This is just one big inconvenience.”
Durban Central police spokesman, Captain Khepu Ndlovu, said the hotel security had been in touch with them,but no statements were taken from complainants.
Soon after Leope discovered the break-in, he took to Twitter to vent his frustration.