A North Coast couple were killed when five robbers - with AK-47s and wearing police caps and bulletproof vests - opened fire on their bakkie as they tried to flee the scene of a pension payout heist.
Nishen Maharaj, 45, was dropping off his wife, Maureen, at work at the Saverite Supermarket, in Isnembe, near oThongathi (Tongaat), when he saw the robbery in progress.
He tried to reverse away at high speed, but the robbers opened fire on his bakkie with AK-47s.
Maureen was killed instantly. Her husband turned the bakkie, but its tyre was shot, causing him to crash into a banana plantation.
Nishen, who worked for a shipping company, died en route to hospital.
The couple, who lived in Isnembe, have two teenage sons - one of them is in matric.
A source, who did not want to be named, said the robbers had followed businessman Selvan Reddy to his shop at about 7.30am.
Reddy, of Effingham Heights, was carrying an undisclosed amount of cash at the time for pension payouts.
He was accompanied by two security guards and one of his workers.
Pensioners had already started gathering outside the supermarket to collect their pension money.
The source said the robbers had followed Reddy at high speed along the isolated Noodsberg Road to his shop.
“They confronted him while he was still seated in his van. One of the suspects fired a shot and demanded the cash. They roughed up Reddy and took his cellphone, wallet and the pension money.”
The source said the robbers were about to make their getaway in a white Toyota RunX, when the couple drove into the yard.
“Nishen saw the guns and panicked. He started reversing at high speed. The robbers opened fire on his bakkie...”
No one else was injured.
Umhlali SAPS spokesman, Captain Percy Buthelezi, said Reddy’s gun had also been stolen.
The source said the suspects fled in the direction of Verulam.
Private security company, Reaction Unit SA (Rusa), launched an air search while police combed the ground looking for the men.
Rusa spokesman, Prem Balram, said moments after Nishen had been shot, he had phoned one of his (Balram’s) employees.
“He kept saying ‘come quick, come quick... I have been shot’,” Balram said.
“He said he was bleeding a lot. At first we thought it was an April Fool’s joke.
“But I did not want to leave anything to chance and went to investigate. Unfortunately, it was not a joke.”
Balram said the couple had sustained multiple bullet wounds. Maureen had been hit in the head.
He said they received information that the suspects were fleeing towards Verulam.
At about 10am the getaway vehicle, which had been stolen last week in the Berea area, was recovered in Cottonlands - about 20km from the scene.
Two police caps were found on the back seat of the car.
There was no trace of the suspects.
Balram said witnesses in the Cottonlands area claimed the robbers had wrapped the guns in newspaper before fleeing into the bush.
He said the suspects were wearing bulletproof vest marked “police”.
He said air search would continue until the suspects were found.