Durban - Despite the city’s efforts to promote Durban as a prime tourist destination, two visitors from the Netherlands will be leaving next month with one particularly negative memory of their stay.
While walking through central Durban, near Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road on Saturday at about midday, seasoned travellers, Willem, 77, and Christina Beekenkamp, 80, were pounced upon by a young thief.
“The necklace I had given to my wife about 50 years ago was taken from her neck by a young man,” said Willem, who immediately gave chase. He was helped by a passer-by who tried to catch the culprit but he managed to get away with the 18ct gold necklace.
“After a few minutes, we stopped a police car with three officers but they were not willing to write our names or the names of the witnesses. They also were not interested in a cap lost by the criminal.”
Willem, a retired detective, said he could not understand the police’s unwillingness to help. The two were directed to the Point Road police station about 20 minutes away but managed to find a satellite office on the beachfront on their way back to the hotel.
Again, however, Willem said the six officers on site refused to take their statements or open a case.
“When I told them I was a retired detective, they wrote something down, but they didn’t open a case.”
The two returned to their beachfront hotel where they called the police once again.
However, on arriving at the hotel, the Beekenkamps were again told by the officers that it was not worth opening a case, the reason being that the necklace was already gone and, should they catch the culprit, the Beekenkamps would have to return to South Africa for the court case.
“Does this mean that no foreigners must open cases if they are victims of crime in South Africa?”
Beekenkamp said that in the Netherlands people were encouraged to report any crimes so that cases could be built up against repeat offenders.
He said it would also be difficult to claim from insurance for the theft of the necklace because of a lack of case number.
The couple have travelled extensively in the past 56 years, visiting all 194 member countries of the UN, but this is the first time they have been victims of a robbery as well as their first experience with such inaction from police.
A reward of R1 000 has been offered to anyone who returns the necklace to the owners.
Christina said it was not about the value of the necklace, that was not important to them, it was the sentimental value that could not be replaced.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said if a suspect was arrested the police would require that the complainant return to the country to testify in the matter.
“We often find that once foreigners return to their homes they lose interest in the matter and it is a challenge to get them to come back to the country.
“There is no record of the incident at Durban Central, however the Station Commander has registered an enquiry to determine if any police officers were dispatched to the Blue Waters Hotel. It is not our policy to discourage foreigners from opening cases.”