Kimberley - A Kimberley man was shot and killed in an apparent attempted diamond robbery at a mine in Windsorton in the early hours of on Thursday morning.
Riaan “Lappies” Labuschagne, 29, a senior worker at DMS, a diamond sorting facility close to Holpan Mine, was reportedly found dead with two gunshot wounds - one to his left ribcage and the other to his right shoulder - just after 4am on Thursday morning.
He had apparently been shot after three unidentified men broke into the premises and attempted to steal rough diamonds that are normally kept in vaults on the site. The facility sorts rough diamonds from various mines in the area.
The mood at the sorting house was sombre on Thursday, as production was called off for the day and machinery stood idle.
Three workers, who were on duty when the incident occurred, sat in the shade with bloodshot eyes, visibly saddened at what had transpired only hours earlier.
One of the workers, Dawid Senwedi, said he and his colleague, Patrick Khethang, were inside the facility’s kitchen, making tea, when they heard two gunshots outside.
“We heard one shot and then another. I looked through the window and saw three men running past. Patrick ran outside, while I locked myself inside the kitchen. I switched off the lights and hid myself, fearing the men would come after me and shoot me,” Senwedi said.
Khethang added that he hid himself in the bushes. They waited in their hiding places until the arrival of the police, who had been alerted by another worker. They had been on patrol at a neighbouring mine.
After searching with a spotlight, Labuschagne’s bloodied body was found and he was declared dead on the scene.
The facility’s manager, Ian van Deventer, on Thursday said he had spoken to Labuschagne roughly half an hour before the estimated time of death.
“I phoned him at around 3.30am and he told me that he would be locking up the facility,” Van Deventer said.
He added that although no diamonds had been reported missing, this was not the first attempted robbery at the facility.
The mining community was on Thursday rife with speculation that the attempted robbery was an “inside job”.
One source, who wished to stay anonymous, alleged that one of the two security guards employed at the site had allegedly drugged the other (who carried a firearm), and then alerted the robbers that it was safe to enter when he was asleep.
He also said that when police requested to see the suspected guard’s cellphone, in order to trace the calls he made, he apparently told them that he had lost it.
The source further said that Labuschagne had apparently been shot at close range, as there was gunpowder residue visible around the wounds.
Police spokesman, Sergio Kock on Thursday indicated that the Hawks were investigating the case.
“The Hawks are investigating an armed robbery and murder after a 29-year-old man was yesterday (on Thursday) fatally shot at a mine in Holpan near Windsorton.
“The incident allegedly took place yesterday (Thursday) morning at approximately 3:30am. It is suspected that Casper Adriaan Labuschagne, the assistant mine manager, was on duty when the armed robber/s entered the premises and killed him,” Kock said.
“At this stage it cannot be confirmed if anything was stolen. A private person has offered an reward of R100 000 for any information that can lead to the arrest and successful conviction of the perpetrators. All information can be forwarded to the investigating officer, Detective Captain Dolf Louwrens, on 082 331 4700.”
Labuschagne leaves behind his wife, Jolanda, and their 14-month-old son, Jaden.
Social networks were filled on Thursday with messages of condolences from shocked friends and relatives.
“Lappies, I can’t believe it and I don’t have words. I’m just extremely heartbroken. Rest in peace, my friend, you will be missed,” one message read.
Another said: “Our hearts are sore. We can’t believe that a person who was also so positive, would be taken away from us in such a brutal manner. Your friendly greeting will be missed. We pray for Jolanda and the family.”