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Durban - A chance stop at a Durban cafe on his way home from work almost cost a father of two his life when he was shot in the head in a hijacking.
Malcolm Pillay, 37, of Phoenix miraculously survived the shooting at close range and is in a critical, but stable, condition in hospital.
He was on his way home after visiting a client when he popped into the Ocean View Cafe in Wyebank at about 6pm on Tuesday.
He was cornered by three robbers inside the store who demanded the keys to his silver Mazda 3. Losing patience, one of the hijackers drew his firearm and fired three shots.
The first hit the ground, the second shattered the glass door of a cooldrink fridge and the third hit Pillay in the head, said Lizzie Mapa, the shopkeeper who watched in shock as the drama unfolded.
“He (Pillay) came into the store and bought bottled water and matches. After he left, the next thing I saw was him running back into the shop with three men chasing him.
“They kept screaming to him to hand over his car keys. One man stood at the entrance while the other two surrounded Pillay. One of the gunmen then lost patience and shot at him from about 5m away,” said Mapa.
She said the gunshots rattled her and as she saw the glass shatter in the fridge door, Pillay fell flat on his face on the floor.
“After he was shot the one guy searched him and took his car keys. They ran outside then drove off. There was blood everywhere.
“I then hit the panic button to alert the security company.”
Vasagan Archary, 50, a member of the Kloof Police Forum, was one of the first to arrive with five others. He said one of them, trained in first aid, tried to help Pillay.
“His pulse was very low and he was very disorientated. At the time he managed to give us his identity number and told us he was from Phoenix.
“We gave him words of encouragement and just told him to hang in there. The police and ambulance arrived after that,” said Archary.
Pillay was taken to Hillcrest Private Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.
According to the doctor’s report he suffered a bullet wound to the right side of his skull, but the bullet did not penetrate the brain. However, fragments of his skull caused blood clotting and swelling of the brain.
Pillay’s surgery on Tuesday night was successful; with no apparent brain damage.
Speaking at the hospital yesterday his wife, Joanne Pillay, 35, said she was still trying to come to grips with what happened.
When the policeman came to her house to tell them that Malcolm had been hijacked, she was shocked as she had spoken to him only 15 minutes before, when he called to ask if he should buy chocolate cake for the children.
She said the doctors told her that her husband needed emergency surgery.
“We had made plans for Father’s Day and though that has been spoilt, we are so grateful he will be with us to celebrate it,” Joanne said.
“Although so many people, including the paramedics and the doctor who performed the surgery did their part to assist, ultimately it was the hand of God that saved Malcolm.”