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The murder of a respected policewoman hung like a pall over Kraaifontein police station on Friday as its case-hardened commissioner shed tears as she described their loss. Constable Rozelle Witbooi, 30, died when she was shot in the head by a robber she was chasing shortly before before 5pm on Thursday.
Witbooi and her senior partner, Warrant Officer Jonathan Koopman, were responding to a report of a robbery at the Bloekombos informal settlement area near Kraaifontein.
Kraaifontein police had received a complaint of a house robbery that was in progress on a farm in Botfontein Road near Kraaifontein.
Witbooi and Koopman, attached to the Crime Prevention Unit, responded. Near the scene the two saw two suspects running through a graveyard in the Wallacedene informal When the two police officers confronted the suspects, who were running along Old Paarl Road in the direction of Bloekombos informal settlement, one of the suspects fired several shots at them.
Witbooi was hit in the head, but Koopman stood his ground and returned fire, wounding both suspects.
One suspect sustained four gunshot wounds to his legs and shoulder and was later taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. He is in hospital under police guard.
The other wounded suspect, who was shot in the stomach, was able to escape.
Witbooi was the only policewoman attached to the Kraaifontein police station’s Crime Prevention Unit.
She leaves her marriage partner, Marissa Witbooi, her parents and brothers and sisters from Blackheath. Marissa Witbooi is a constable at Elsies River police station.
“We never get over something like this here,” Van Niekerk said.
“We had just begun to heal from the loss of two of our members in 2011 and this happens.”
Witbooi’s colleagues and the Hawks had launched a manhunt, said Kraaifontein station commissioner Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk.
“She was so popular here, a lovely person,” Van Niekerk said, with tears welling up every now and again as she talked about her lost charge.
“For us who remain behind here the effect of such a thing is terrible. Terrible. She was so dedicated. I knew her since 2010 when I arrived here.
“She joined in 2009 and the fact that she had done 11 training courses in that time shows her dedication.
“All the courses were on operational subjects, so it also shows where she wanted to go with her career.
“I had believed from the start that she was headed for bigger things. I was sure of it.”
Van Niekerk described Witbooi’s police partner, Koopman, as a hero.
“He saw his partner being shot, but he stood his ground and he wounded both the suspects.
“Because of him the one was caught and, because of him, we now have a much better chance of catching the other one too.
“Witbooi’s operations group recently was awarded the best ops group at the station during our six-monthly rewards function.
“It was such a proud moment for her and the thing is, she deserved it.”
Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer, who was at the murder scene said: “We want to send our condolences to the family of our fallen colleague, and express our disgust and anger to the suspect who killed her in cold blood, while she was doing her job and serving the community.”