It was a journalist and the power of social media that did what helicopters and the police couldn’t – track down model Lee-Anne Liebenberg’s husband’s hijacked car.
Nicky van der Walt was hijacked in the driveway of his Parkview residence at about midday on Tuesday.
Moments after the two hijackers made off with Van der Walt’s Rolex watch and Range Rover, the car’s tracking device was triggered.
What turned out as more important in the search for the luxury vehicle was a tweet fired off at the time of the incident by Liebenberg, who was in the house.
One of her Twitter followers is Amanda Watson, online editor for a local newspaper. Watson was in her office in Jan Smuts Avenue when she noticed a police helicopter and car tracking company helicopter circle close by. An ex-cop, Watson realised that something was up.
“The two choppers were circling for a while and I knew that it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint cars with trackers in them. I had a strong feeling that the car was in the area,” she said.
The helicopters moved off and Watson decided she would go and see if she could locate the vehicle. From the tweet she had a description of the Range Rover and a registration number.
Falling back on the days when she was an explosives patrol dog handler in the SAPS, she decided to preform a grid search between Hyde Park and Jan Smuts Avenue.
On Alexandra Avenue in Craighall Park she spotted the black Range Rover, parked in the shade under a tree. Not sure if the hijackers were still in the area, she parked her car about 50m away and phoned the police.
“When the cop opened the door, the keys were still there and so were the bank cards,” said Watson. She had found the car two-and-a-half hours after the hijacking.
The incident appeared to have the same modus operandi as that of the Rolex gang.
Van der Walt appeared to have been followed home from Melrose Arch. In the driveway of his house he was told to hand over his Rolex. The cash was also stolen. He wasn’t harmed. Hours after the incident, Liebenberg tweeted her appreciation for what Watson had done. “THANK YOU AMANDA FOR EVERYTHING! You’re AMAZING,” she wrote. - The Star