The woman, Fathima Mohideen, said they had arrived in Durban on Saturday for a week-long holiday. They were booked in at the Durban Spa Hotel.
Mohideen said she accompanied her brother Yusuf, who went for a swim on Saturday evening. Yusuf had wrapped his jeans inside a towel together with Mohideen’s purse and left it on the beach sand. She said the items were in her view when she decided to dip her toes in the ocean.
“I was sitting next to our stuff all the time. I always had sight of it, even when I went to wet my feet.
“There were a few people on the beach. I could have been distracted by a man who was filling up plastic containers with sea water. When we were done, we saw the towel but the jeans were missing, along with my purse,” Mohideen said.
The thief took the jeans with the wallet, the keys to their hotel room and her purse, but left the towel and shoes. Mohideen and Yusuf searched frantically for the items in bins and on pavements in the vicinity. They also interviewed several people, but had no luck finding their things.
Meanwhile, the thief apparently attempted to buy R3000 worth of liquor from a bottle store nearby.
Mohideen had left her cellphone in their holiday apartment and, on returning to begin cancelling their bank cards telephonically and online, discovered a text notification saying that close to R3000 of alcohol was purchased at a liquor store in the area.
“They swiped the card but I’m not sure if the charges were accepted. The bank is investigating and so far nothing has been deducted from the account.
“I immediately went to the bottle store to check if they dropped off the wallet or cards and my purse. The employer claimed he did not know anything. We checked the bins again but could not find anything,” she said.
Mohideen did not report the incident to the police, but Yusuf deposed to an affidavit to verify that his items, including his driver’s licence, were stolen.
Henry Naidoo, North Beach Community Policing Forum spokesperson, said he could not comment unless a case was opened, but advised people to safeguard their valuables on the beach and report all crimes on the beachfront.
A source who works on the beachfront daily said there was a syndicate operating in the area.
“They hand-pick people who are not familiar with the beach and prey on them. They can be disguised as bathers or as cleaners with plastic packets in their hand collecting dirt. Several of them have been caught in the past but because the victims failed to follow through, the cases are withdrawn in court,” the source said.