Pretoria - Police have launched a manhunt for two suspects who escaped from a police van in Atteridgeville on Tuesday.
Two of the suspects were among a group of 11 awaiting-trial accused who were being transported to Kgosi Mampuru II Prison from Atteridgeville Magistrate’s Court.
Police are also looking for five gunmen who pounced on the police van which was transporting the group of prisoners, freeing the two suspects. The incident happened at about noon on Tuesday when the group of armed assailants travelling in a maroon sedan blocked the van transporting the prisoners.
The five men armed with an AK47, an R-5 rifle and three handguns got out of the vehicle and forced the two police officers transporting the prisoners out of the van.
Police spokesman Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said the officers were held at gunpoint while the suspects opened the van and freed two suspects.
The two escapees are Bethuel Fosi, 25, who was arrested for theft and Abram Matombo, 36 who was arrested for armed robbery. Police cordoned off the area where the police van was parked on the corner of Matshiga and Mngandi streets.
Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba was also on the scene, along with about 30 police officers.
However, residents in the township who witnessed the incident gave a slightly different account of the escape. One of them, who cannot be named as he fears for his life, said while the two suspects escaped on foot, there was a third who was taken from the back of the van and ferried away in the maroon sedan.
“I saw two gunmen who had forced the officers to lie on the ground while a third, who was wielding a pick-axe, broke open the door of the van. They took one of the handcuffed guys, who was wearing a black jacket, and drove off with him. The other two ran away on foot,” he said.
It is believed that the gunmen were after Dimakatso Surprise Mametsa, 21, and Mmabatho Melva Muduwa, 26, who were arrested at the weekend for the murder of Constable Ronald Baloyi.
The pair appeared briefly in the Atteridgeville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Their matter was postponed to September 1 for an identity parade to be conducted.