Mpumalanga - Police have made a breakthrough in the case where an elderly couple were brutally murdered in Belfast, Mpumalanga, and their bodies stuffed into a deep freezer.

One suspect was arrested in Mamelodi on Saturday while two others are still on the run.

It is believed that the suspects murdered the elderly couple – Rudolph and Elna van Heerden, both 79 years old – and stole their vehicle, a Toyota Prado, which was later found abandoned on the N4 highway towards Middelburg.

Mpumalanga police spokesman Colonel Leonard Hlathi said the suspects then proceeded to Carolina. There they attacked and severely assaulted another elderly couple and stole their vehicle, a Nissan Hardbody bakkie, and took their gun.

Police pounced at the weekend with the arrest of the 18-year-old man in Mamelodi.

Police said tracker officers and members of the Flying Squad on Saturday traced the signal of the car to Mamelodi.

A shoot-out ensued between the three suspects and a tracker officer after they were spotted in Mamelodi.

“The officer returned fire. Police back-up came and the suspects abandoned the car and fled on foot,” said police spokesman Warrant Officer Michael Mbewe.

Police continued to gave chase and the suspects went in different directions in a bid to get away from the officers.

The suspects thought they had outsmarted the officers but Tshwane Metro Police – who had heard about the shooting on their radio – joined in the search for them.

Tshwane Metro Police spokes-man Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said that during the shoot-out, a passer-by was hit in the leg and is now in hospital.

“Metro police members got a tip-off that one of the suspects was hiding at a certain house in the area.

“They went to the house and arrested the suspect, aged 18. They also recovered one firearm with two magazines and 14 live rounds,” said Mahamba.

During checks on the gun and ammunition, it was verified that the firearm was reported stolen at the elderly couple’s house.

The suspect allegedly confessed to the murder.

Mbewe appealed to the public to assist in the search for the other suspects but cautioned against confronting them.

“We urge the public not to confront them as they are armed and dangerous,” he said.

The arrested man has been charged with the hijacking of a motor vehicle, possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition, the attempted murder of the passer-by and for the murder of the elderly couple.

He is expected to appear in court soon. Hlathi said once the suspect has appeared in court in Pretoria, he will be taken to Mpumalanga to stand trial for the crimes he is alleged to have committed in the area.

Hlathi said there was a possibility that the men could be linked to other crimes in the province.