How car guard spoilt hijack suspect’s day

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Police stand by after Braamfontein community members arrested a hijacking suspect who drove his victims car into a tree on Jorissen Street. Picture: Nicholus Tshukudu

Johannesburg - From his spot perched on the edge of a bin in Jorissen Street, Braamfontein, Corrie Vermaak watches the world go by.

It’s a good spot, right outside a Pick n Pay store.

Vermaak, 42, sometimes gets cash for helping shoppers push their trolleys to their cars.

If not, there are always students from Wits walking past. They’re the nice ones, the students.

Years ago, Vermaak was a welder. He had a bakkie and a box of tools and did maintenance work.

Then, a divorce. Drink. The street.

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Corrie Vermaak, who restrained a suspected hijacker in Braamfontein yesterday, explains how the drama unfolded. Picture: Timothy Bernard


But the shelter on Kotze Street is open only from 8pm to 7am, and Vermaak – “four years clean,” he said – has to do something with the 11 hours in between. So he comes to this spot and begs.

It was what he was doing Wednesday morning when a car came careering down the road and slammed into a tree.

Vermaak spotted it just as a woman – a student – was crossing the street.

She was nearly at the pavement, her back to the street.

“Watch out!” shouted Vermaak. The woman turned and leapt, the silver VW grazing her leg before hitting a tree on the pavement almost head-on.

Vermaak didn’t know it at the time, but the car had been hijacked just moments earlier.

His brother Louis saw it all from his corner on Bertha Street: a man walking up to a driver’s open window, an angry exchange, a stab to the driver’s arm, the driver jumping out of the car, the hijacker climbing in and speeding left into Jorissen.

“There by the robot, my brother tells them a few times that people are robbing there, but when security comes they’re already gone,” said Vermaak.

Moments later, the same car was standing perpendicular to the oncoming traffic. A chunk of its front left corner was destroyed, a section of the tree stripped clean of bark.

The student was sinking to her knees, overcome by a dizzy spell. She scrambled up, grabbed a shoe that went flying in her leap and dashed into the Pick n Pay.

Vermaak ran towards the wreck, just metres away.

The man in the driver’s seat immediately began trying to escape.

“I took him around the neck,” said Vermaak, putting his arms as if in a headlock.

He pointed to scratches and red marks on his right hand: “He was trying to bite me.”

Metro cops quickly ran to the scene from various nearby intersections, while two car guards helped Vermaak hold the man down.

There was blood and teeth on the street.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the driver, the suspected hijacker and the student were taken to hospital. Small crowds gathered throughout the day.

It was 1.30pm before the wreck was removed. Vermaak was still there.

“You’re a hero, Corrie.”

“Ugh, I just thought I must help,” he said.

He perched himself back on the bin outside the Pick n Pay.

“If I could just have my tools and my bakkie, like I had before…” he said, but first he needs to make R8 for a bed at the shelter. There is work to do.

The Star

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