Squash players stranded after ‘rip-off’

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Thirty KZN primary school squash players are stranded after a “travel agent” hired to book tickets for them to participate in an inter-provincial tournament in the Eastern Cape this weekend allegedly took their money and did a bunk.

On Wednesday evening, the woman – a church-goer and member of the KZN Philarmonic Choir, who owns a local travel agency – was arrested at a choir practice at St James’ Anglican church in Morningside and has been charged with theft.

She is accused of duping the chairwoman of the provincial primary school squash association, Kerry Coetsee, into believing she could arrange car hire and air tickets for the children and about 30 parents who were set to leave for Port Elizabeth and George on Saturday.

But when Coetsee tried to confirm the bookings last week, the travel agent reportedly refused to respond to phone calls or e-mails.

“I then decided to contact SA Airlink and kulula, only to find neither of them had any of the children on their list of passengers. I also phoned the car hire company that she said she had used. They didn’t have any bookings for us either,” said Coetsee.

In October last year, Tamsyn Puren, a music teacher who had sung in the symphonic choir for 10 years with the woman, asked her to arrange Australian visas for herself and seven others, and also to assist with job applications.

“She took our money for the services – about R30 000. We paid for unabridged birth certificates and an immigration lawyer, whom we have since discovered doesn’t exist.

“I tried to find the school, Blackmore Academy, where she said she had apparently arranged a job interview, but that also does not exist,” said Puren.

“We have also discovered that she is not a registered immigration consultant. We asked her to refund our money and, although she agreed to do so, we have received nothing.”

On Wednesday, Coetsee opened a case of theft against the woman at the Montclair police station. According to SAPS spokesman Thulani Zwane, she was already under investigation on Wednesday afternoon.

Puren said she would do the same.

“We were a bit nervous to do it before. We were trying to get our money back from her and were concerned she would open a case of harassment against us,” she said.

Angry parent Peter Green, who travelled from Nottingham Road to Durban early yesterday to try to speak to the woman at her flat in Prince Street, found that both she and her elderly mother, with whom she lived, had left the premises on Tuesday afternoon and not returned.

They were not answering their cellphones. - The Mercury


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