Pretoria – Medical staff was allegedly held hostage, and the ambulance they were travelling in was stripped of its engine, gearbox, tyres, and battery by a group of criminals who had called alleging that there was a woman in labour in Mpumalanga.
The “shocking” incident allegedly took place in Belfast on Sunday evening, according to Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala.
“It is reported that on the said day, the emergency medical services received a strange call about a woman who was in labour, giving birth at a farm near Belfast on the Spitzkop Road. An ambulance, a VW Crafter, was then dispatched to attend,” said Mohlala.
“At around 21h30, it is said that a follow-up call was received by the paramedics whereby the caller requested to meet with the medical staff at a certain spot for the direction to the scene. Little did the medical staff know that this was an orchestrated robbery which was paraded as an emergency call.”
He said, as the ambulance arrived at the place mentioned by the caller, two men wearing balaclavas covering their faces then emerged.
“The suspects allegedly held them hostage and took their cellphones from them before they tied them up with cable ties but kept (the emergency staff) inside the ambulance. The said ambulance was reportedly driven to another place where five more suspects were noticed,” Mohlala narrated.
“It is further reported that the suspects allegedly stripped the vehicle of its gear box, engine, two tyres, as well as the battery. The total estimated value of the vehicle parts stolen is about R300 000.”
Police said the vehicle parts of the ambulance were loaded into another vehicle, and “surprisingly, the suspects gave the EMS personnel the cellphones taken earlier before they left the scene”.
The medical personnel later managed to alert their supervisor and gave directions to their location.
“They were then rescued, and the incident reported to the police at Belfast, where a case of robbery was reported. A manhunt has since been launched for the suspects,” said Mohlala.
Meanwhile, provincial commissioner of police in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, has “strongly condemned” the incident.
“As law enforcement officers, we will not allow a situation like this, whereby emergency workers will be hindered to carry out their duties by criminals. We will do all in our powers to bring them to book, and they cannot escape the arm of the law,” she said.
Police at Belfast have urged community members to assist with information on the whereabouts of the suspects by calling Captain Tobias Mogadime at 071 353 6763 or calling the Crime Stop number at 0860 010 111.
“Alternatively, members of the community can send information via the My SAPS App. All received information will be treated as confidential and callers may opt to remain anonymous,” the police appealed.