Five armed robberies, more than a dozen traumatised victims and one confirmed death.
A gang of trigger-happy robbers have been targeting Joburg’s north-western suburbs, and a victim of one of the more recent attacks has reported that one of his assailants claimed to be a police officer.
Mitchell Heynes* and his wife were two recent victims of the gang. The family were assaulted and harassed in their home for more than three hours on July 17.
During the harrowing incident, the elderly couple were threatened and almost killed, and their landlord was wounded in a hail of gunfire.
According to Heynes, the criminals knew the home’s layout and when the security beams would be off, and had made off with money from the home’s safe.
The couple were tied up with shoelaces and nylon cable, kicked and left under a duvet in their bathroom for hours before one of the criminals told them they would be killed.
Heynes, who lives on the same large property as his landlord, was expecting him to drop by to pick up his dog – a daily ritual – and had turned off the security beams.
At 6.15pm, the gang struck, knocking down his door in one swift movement.
While trying to reach for his gun, Heynes realised it was not wise to fight the five men – who had their guns trained on him and his wife. The couple were told to get on the floor, and the men said in English they knew where the safe was located.
The couple were tied up and taken to the bathroom, all the while being kicked and hit as the robbers demanded the keys to the safe.
During the robbery, the men had noticed Heynes’s gun-storage room, and one of them had asked if he had a licence for his bullet-reloading tool. When Heynes answered that he didn’t need one, the man said “Yes, you do, I’m a police officer and I would know”. Heynes, a security consultant and competitive shottist, believed his captor and noted that the guns used by two of the men were police-issue Z88 pistols.
After looting the small cottage, the thugs asked Heynes about his landlord’s property – how many people were inside and whether they had any firearms.
Four of the men left, leaving them in the “care” of one of the assailants, a tall, hefty man.
The couple were told by their watcher that they would be killed, but a hail of gunfire outside caused him to flee.
The security beams around the landlord’s home had been set off, and he went out, gun in hand, to investigate.
But as the landlord explored the perimeter while he waited for security to arrive, he was hit in the chest by a shot from one of the men. It appeared the gang had not expected him to be armed, and as he fired several bullets in their direction, they fled. The landlord’s wife rushed him to hospital, unaware that the Heyneses were sitting bound in their home.
It was only after Heynes’s wife had got hold of her phone that the couple received help.
The landlord, who did not wish to be named, survived the bullet fired at his sternum as the bullet was a “reload”, meaning it had less gunpowder in it and did not go through his body. Police believe the gang is targeting homes from Northcliff, Northriding and Quellerina to as far as Muldersdrift.
Investigating officer Elia Sekhula said the gang’s modus operandi had led police to believe the same five men had been involved in numerous armed robberies over the past two months. However, he was unable to confirm if an internal investigation into possible police involvement had been opened, not willing to deny or confirm Heynes’s claims.
No arrests had been made.
The Star reported on another of the gang’s crimes last Wednesday. Newlyweds Steve and Elena van Heerden were attacked in their home by what police believe to be the same five men.
Steve was killed and his wife tortured. Their possessions were stolen.