Policeman dies in transit robbery shoot-out

By Eleanor Momberg

A Johannesburg dog unit sergeant was shot dead and another policeman was slightly wounded in a shoot-out with cash-in-transit robbers in the Soweto area on Saturday morning.

Gauteng police spokesman Brigadier Govindsamy Marimuthoo said a heavily armed gang travelling in several vehicles rammed two Coin Security vehicles at the Maraisburg freeway off-ramp on the N1 South.

They opened fire on the guards, wounding two of them, before taking cash bags and heading for Soweto in several vehicles, leaving behind the two cars used to ram the vans.

National Police spokesman Brigadier Sally de Beer said police spotted the getaway vehicles on the Old Potch Road towards Soweto and gave chase.

Marimuthoo said the robbers opened fire on the pursuing policemen, who shot back. A police constable was shot in a hand.

The chase continued to Protea South in Soweto where police encountered "fierce resistance" and the sergeant was shot dead.

"In a sad twist of fate his wife - a police employee - was on duty at the time and therefore immediately knew of her husband's death. She is receiving counselling," De Beer said.

Four mean -were arrested and taken to the Protea police station. Three vehicles were recovered and eight firearms, including an AK47, R4 and R5 rifles and a pistol, were seized.

Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele and Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Perumal Naidoo visited the scene and the police station yesterday.

Cele's spokesman, Lt-Col Lindela Mashigo, said Cele was "agonised and touched deeply" by the murder of the policeman.

"Any attempt on the life of a policeman or the killing of a policeman is heart-rending for him," Mashigo said.

Cele, describing the sergeant as a hero, extended his heartfelt condolences to his widow and family.

"I will personally ensure that every effort is made to hunt down each member of this gang and bring them to book. Shooting at members of the police is totally unacceptable," he said.

A lawyer who was consulting a client at the Protea police cells yesterday told The Sunday Independent he had heard one of the suspects being tortured with electric shocks.

"I heard the guy screaming. He was screaming blue murder and I could hear them shocking him. You could hear the (electric current) running through him. After an hour and 15 minutes I could no longer take it because he was screaming for his mother, so I went and asked them to stop.

"The policemen threatened me with violence and pushed me out of the room," he said.

The lawyer, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, was later attacked by the same policemen who threatened to kill him, and was then thrown out of the police station.

Marimuthoo and Cele's spokesman, Mashigo, said the lawyer should lay a complaint.

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