Department of Correctional Services officials are now receiving managment training to assist them in coping with the increasing stress of dealing with large volumes of prisoners. A warder at an East London Prison keeps a close eye on prisoners. 241006 Picture: Steve Lawrence

Pretoria -

Police have turned to the public in their search for four suspected criminals who escaped from a prison vehicle on their way to a first court appearance last month, after their own investigations have failed to yield results.

According to police spokeswoman Captain Colette Weilbach, the police hunt had been through the required and available steps, which included going to family, friends and other connections.

“We are now hoping that the community will step in and help us find them,” Weilbach said.

Garsfontein police were transporting eight prisoners to the Hatfield Community Court on December 9 when the back door of the bakkie opened.

She said: “The vehicle was stationary at the traffic light on the corner of Lois and Atterbury roads in Menlyn when the prisoners managed to open the vehicle and started to escape.”

Police suspected that a person at the intersection had helped the prisoners to open the door. By the time the police noticed their movements, four were already gone; they managed to stop the remaining four.

A helicopter and police dogs were dispatched to the area, starting the initial search. “But that was unsuccessful,” said Weilbach.

The escapers arrested for alleged crimes in the Garsfontein policing precinct were:

* 19-year-old Obvious Comfort Kusosa from Plastic View, in a case of copper cable theft;

* 35-year-old Jimmy Langa from Mamelodi East, for alleged possession of suspected stolen goods;

* 25-year-old Thabo Lovers Mana from Soshanguve, who was reportedly arrested for shoplifting; and

* 23-year-old Vincent Sithole from Plastic View, arrested in a malicious damage to property case.

Weilbach said prison escapers were few and far between in the precinct.

“This is an isolated case,” she maintained.

The men would face the additional charge of escaping from lawful custody.

She said that after an internal investigation, disciplinary steps had been taken against the police officers on duty on that trip.

“As police officers, we have a duty to do everything possible to prevent the escape of suspects and prisoners in our custody.”

Weilbach asked the community to assist where they could, and said information could be given to Garsfontein investigating officer Warrant Officer Charles Seema on 012 369 6900 and on 082 461 6337.

“Anyone who can assist please contact him,” she appealed.

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