Pretoria - DA Councillor Christa Spoelstra wondered why the four men coming towards her as she was walking out of the Dis-Chem store at Centurion Mall yesterday were holding boxes of electronic goods half-covered by blankets.
She shrugged it off. Then two more men passed close to her. They were carrying large firearms – AK47s, she thought.
Seconds later, multiple gunshots rang out. Frightened, she ran into the nearby Telkom shop – which has been robbed twice in the past month.
Spoelstra and other mall customers were shocked at the audacious robbery at the Apple iStore yesterday morning.
“The guys inside the Telkom shop were reliving their own nightmare.
“They knew exactly what to do. They just shut the doors and ordered all the customers to get onto the floor.
“We waited about 15 minutes before we could leave. We were waiting for the gunshots to stop and for the all-clear from security. I was a white as a sheet. It really shook me,” she said.
Police said the robbers shot their way out of the mall, escaping with R1 million worth of goods. They stormed through the mall’s boom gates in three cars.
Fortunately, no one was injured.
The four men allegedly entered the store pretending to be customers before holding up the manager and taking electronic goods.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Khensani Magoai said the men took iPhones, laptops and tablets.
“They instructed the manager to open the safe.
“The suspects fled the scene in three vehicles – a white Corsa, black Audi A4 and a silver Mazda.”
Yesterday, users on social media welcomed the fact that police had arrested five suspects shortly after the robbery but Magoai insisted no arrests had been made.
“I don’t know where this information is coming from; we have no suspects in custody,” she said.
She would not respond to an allegation by a Twitter user who said one suspect was believed to be a policeman.
“No, I can’t confirm that. We haven’t caught them,” she said.
It is unclear whether the armed robbers were the same gang who robbed the iStores in Cresta and The Glen shopping centres last week.
In Cresta, an elderly man was shot and wounded when three armed men robbed iStore at the mall on August 13.
Police said three men entered the iStore and ordered the employees to lie down. They took an undisclosed number of cellphones and iPads and fled the scene.
The men then started shooting randomly in the parking lot of the mall as they got away, injuring the elderly man.
Two days later seven robbers hit the iStore at the Glen.
A security guard was wounded in the leg as the robbers opened fire as they made their getaway.
Yesterday, Taryn Hyam, spokeswoman for the Core Group, the official representative of Apple products in South Africa, confirmed the Centurion robbery saying the safety of customers and staff were the company’s number one priority, “and very extensive security measures have been put in place”.
“We would like to emphasise that all devices stolen from iStores will be deactivated and locked irreversibly, rendering them worthless for use and resale.”
Hyam added that she believed that the police had made a number of arrests shortly after the incident. But Mogoai denied this.