Durban - Upper Highway residents are being besieged by violent gangs of house robbers whose brutal tactics of attack and torture have left a trail of 150 victims in their wake.
The surge of crime in the area has seen private security companies and community safety forums struggling to quell the violence, as housebreakers sweep through the community gripped by crime.
Statistics from private guarding firms paint a grim picture of crime-ridden suburbs in which residents fear for their lives.
The latest brutal attack has left a Kloof woman picking up the pieces after her fiancé was shot dead by ruthless house robbers as they forced their way into their home early on Friday morning.
Rodney Bradley, 55, was shot through his front door while desperately trying to prevent his attackers from entering the house. This fatal attack is the fifth break-in at the couple’s Igwababa Road property in less than three months.
His fiancée, Terri Carlson, told of an ominous presentiment she had the night before his death, when Bradley had stressed the importance of home security to her.
“eNCA TV had aired footage of the Hillcrest stabbing, and he recorded it and we went over it for over an hour. He told me what I should do and how I should react if something like that were to happen to me. We even walked through the house and played through scenarios in case,” she said, as she struggled to hold back tears.
With over 40 years’ experience in various martial arts, she said that Bradley had always wanted to make sure that she was safe.
“He was of the philosophy that if you kept your wits about you, you would be able to come out of an attack unscathed,” she said.
Carlson said she was frozen in fear when she saw men running towards her front door, and she recognised gang members from footage she had seen the night before.
“He woke up before me and had gone through to the kitchen and had opened the front door so the dogs could go outside. He made me tea and brought it back to our bedroom and his phone rang. While he was on the phone, I saw these two guys running towards the kitchen door that was open. They were both wearing hoodies and looked exactly like the ones from the footage,” she said.
“I screamed and he grabbed a fighting stick and ran down the passage towards the front door… that is when I heard the first shots.”
Fighting to keep the door closed, Bradley was struck twice by bullets fired through the front door.
As his bloodied body collapsed in the passageway, a frantic Carlson grabbed her cellphone and locked herself in a bathroom.
“I couldn’t see without my lenses, and I was battling to see the numbers on the screen. I managed to call my neighbour, and she said she had heard the shots already, and that help was on the way. I dialled my daughter next and just screamed to her to call the police,” she said.
She told of how she heard the gunmen enter her bedroom while she cowered in silence in the bathroom.
“I heard one of them say in English: ‘Where is the key for this door?’, and they started hitting it and trying to kick it down before they fired three shots at the lock. I was clutching a glass bottle and was readying myself to hit anyone that came through the door. When things went quiet, I called my neighbour, and she said that police were in my garden,” she added.
Running to her partner’s lifeless body, Carlson said that she could see he was dead. “I tried to do CPR, but I could see that he was gone. He was a man above men, and was so selfless and humble,” she sobbed.
She praised the quick response of police officers, but lashed out at what she described as a “failing” justice system.
“The police were fantastic. Even though it felt like for ever, they were there in eight minutes. What we have been let down by is the justice system. These people get bail and abscond, and it takes them another two years to catch them while they commit crime,” Carlson added.
Police arrested one man as he fled the house, while another is on the run.
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said in a statement on Friday that police had arrested several members of the Panga, Whoonga and Finger gangs in recent weeks. He said five men had been in court on various charges relating to the string of brutal home invasions. The day before the statement was released, he appeared on the eNCA Channel and denied the existence of gangs in the Upper Highway area, and described the crime situation as “under control”.
Blue Security managing director Darryn le Grange said they were contracted to over 7 000 clients in the Upper Highway area alone.
“There has been a marked increase in the number of individual clients, as well as the number of enquiries from neighbourhood watches in the area, which shows that communities recognise the problem,” he said.
Le Grange said that, owing to a surge in crime, private security companies had stepped in to fill the void. In statistics provided by Blue Security, they attended to more than 150 incidents of crime in the Upper Highway area last month.
“Crime is changing, the police force is changing, and the demand on our services is changing. We evolved from monitoring alarms to now providing an armed response service,” he said.
ADT spokesman Martin Kriel said that they too had observed an increase in criminal activity.
“ADT has definitely seen an increase in criminal activity in the Highway area, if one considers a month-on-month comparison be-tween February and March. Incidents of a violent nature have increased, with armed robberies being more prevalent,” he said.
He said in the past year they had grown their client base in the Highway area because of the high rate of crime.