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Durban - The alleged leader of a gang of robbers which targeted people selling cars on online advertiser Gumtree, was nabbed by police on when they noticed him sitting in a police cell.
The 44-year-old convicted killer had been in custody after allegedly stealing beds and air conditioners, and the link to the more serious crimes had not yet been made.
Two policemen from the SAPS Provincial Task Team – which has been searching for him since May – went to fetch another prisoner for questioning from the holding cells at Durban Central Police Station.
The sharp-eyed policemen, Warrant Officers Rajen Nagesar and Krishna Naidoo, suddenly spotted the fugitive sitting in a cell.
He is expected to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court today on seven counts of armed robbery, hijacking and kidnapping.
Nine months ago, another member of the so-called “Gumtree gang” was arrested and pleaded guilty to six counts of armed robbery.
He was sentenced to six terms of 25 years.
Soon after the arrest, the gang leader fled his Chatsworth home and has been on the run from police since.
Police have since established that he had been living in a lodge in central Durban. He was originally arrested for placing orders for beds and air conditioning units to be delivered to a false address, where he would be waiting.
The accused had been released on parole last January, after serving 14 years for murder.
A police source said the gang had targeted victims on the Gumtree website and set up appointments on the pretext of wanting to buy used vehicles.
“Once they met the victim they asked to take the car for a test drive,” the police source said. During this time the gang leader allegedly introduced one of his accomplices as his personal mechanic who needed to check out the car before it could be bought.
“During (the test drive) the victims were accosted, robbed and cable-tied,” the source said. “They were also taken to ATMs and made to withdraw large sums of cash.
“The suspects then dumped them in remote locations and made off with the cars and other valuables.”
In May, gang member Raventhran Kistensamy Chetty pleaded guilty to six counts of armed robbery.
He was given a prison sentence of 150 years – 25 years for each count. The sentences run concurrently, meaning he will serve an effective 25 years in prison.
Two suspects belonging to the gang are still on the run.
In his guilty plea, Chetty admitted that in all the hijacking and robberies, the victims were held at gunpoint, and that violence and force was used to instill fear. He had said his crime spree started last February when he met the gang leader, who allegedly promised to organise him a job as a driver.
Chetty had said the first victim was from Chatsworth and that he (Chetty) was identified by the gang leader as a mechanic.
“He told the buyer that I needed to test drive the car,” he said in his plea.
“Once on the road, he produced a gun and told the victim he was being hijacked. The victim jumped out of the vehicle and ran away.”
Chetty said the vehicle was recovered that same day by police.
He said they committed six armed robberies from February until May 1. Victims were targeted in eManzimtoti, Sydenham, Malvern, Verulam, Savannah Park, Merebank and on the South Coast.
The same modus operandi was used in all instances.
Chetty said after each hijacking, he was paid up to R800 and the gang leader drove off with the stolen car.
Charges against his co-accused, Thiloshan Chetty, were provisionally withdrawn last month.