Johannesburg - Just one night before and a few kilometres away from where a police shootout with truck hijackers took place on Wednesday morning, an 8.5-ton truck was hijacked.
And, without realising it, the criminals got their faces recorded on the vehicle’s dash cams.
On Tuesday night, a high-speed chase and gunbattle between the police and an alleged truck-hijacking gang turned deadly when two of the suspects were shot dead.
The other three - who included a police officer in uniform - were arrested.
The dramatic shootout was the latest in a string of successes the police have made in their fight against truck hijackings.
This is the second time in as many months that a police officer has been linked to such a crime.
For two weeks, police had been monitoring a gang in a cloned police car.
After tailing the car on Tuesday night, police flagged it down, but the driver sped off, Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said.
A police chase ensued, culminating in a shootout in Glen Austin, Midrand, around 9am.
“When they realised we were behind them and that they were in trouble, they thought the only way out was to shoot. They started firing at us. We retaliated and in the process two of them were killed,” he said.
Three suspects were injured and apprehended.
There were five suspects in the vehicle - four were in police uniform and one wore a bullet-proof vest.
The real police officer is a sergeant stationed at Olifantsfontein police station in Midrand.
Inside the cloned police car with police markings and blue lights, officers found jamming devices.
“The way these devices work is that if these people come into your home to rob you, they will use some of these devices to obstruct the (cellphone) network so that when you call the police, your calls don’t go through.
“When they target trucks that deliver goods, they know exactly where the tracking device is. They will hijack the truck and put a jamming device on the tracking gadget.
“When the owners of the truck monitor its movement, what they will see is that the truck is stationary. However, the robbers would have driven it to some place and started offloading the goods,” Ramaloko said.
Four unlicensed firearms were found in the vehicle and one of the men was wanted by the police, he added.
“I’m not sure whether we will make more arrests, but we will search the suspects’ houses to check for more uniforms and stolen vehicles,” Ramaloko said.
After hearing about the shoot-out, Deon Venske, who works in the control room of a logistics company, wondered whether the arrested men were also involved in the hijacking of their truck on Monday night.
Venske said their driver was stopped by a police officer in Olifantsfontein road around 8pm. After asking to see his driving licence, the gang told him to get into their blue-light car.
Other men who were not in uniform took the truck.
The driver was driven around before he was dropped off in Tembisa unharmed. The truck was recovered in Kempton Park.
It was fitted with a dashboard camera that recorded the men trying to destroy it.
A video recording of the incident has been placed on YouTube by crime-fighting organisation eBlockwatch.
eBlockwatch’s André Snyman said the cameras are sensitive to vibrations and are activated immediately to record accidents. “In this case, the camera was the criminals’ Achilles heel as it took nice selfies of them.”