The handing over of a suspected homemade bomb and dozens of rounds of ammunition and a gun at a Pretoria police station has led to the discovery of a suspected eastern European crime syndicate operating in South Africa.
The syndicate is being investigated for links to drug, human and gun trafficking.
The discovery was made when a Centurion woman, who cannot be named as her husband is on the run from police, surrendered the explosive device.
It was hidden inside a pink Winnie the Pooh children’s backpack that was handed to officers at the Wierdabrug police station on Thursday.
The handing over came hours after the woman’s 21-year-old son was arrested by Wierdabrug police, allegedly on false charges of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.
The charges were laid by her husband, a 44-year-old Slovakian national, on Wednesday night.
Infuriated, the woman, who claimed that her son was acting in self-defence, went to the police station. She handed in the homemade explosive device, a 9mm Norinco Star pistol, 50 rounds of shotgun ammunition, 16 rounds of 9mm ammunition and two Z88 9mm pistol magazines.
Startled by the explosive device, police immediately called in the Soshanguve K9 explosives unit. Its members discovered that hidden inside the backpack was ammunition and suspected explosives wrapped up in black electrical tape.
Summoning the bomb squad, police explosive experts closed off the police station before they detonated the package in a controlled explosion using a specially shaped water charge device. The device is used for the destruction of suspicious parcels identified as containing explosives.
Destroying the package, police were seen carefully searching the area as they collected evidence for forensic analysis.
Police at the station said there were strong indications that the man who allegedly made the device had links to international crime syndicates based in eastern Europe that were operating in South Africa.
“At this stage the investigation is in its initial stages, but we are very, very concerned about finding this man. We are also extremely worried about the safety of this man’s wife, whose life, and that of her son, we believe are in grave danger.
“The information at hand suggests that a specialised task team comprising detectives from the Organised Crime Unit is needed, given the nature of the allegations about what this man is allegedly involved in and who he is linked to,” said a police source.
Asked for further information, the source declined, saying the investigation was extremely sensitive and involved life and death. “If we say too much, people could die.”
The source declined, for investigative reasons, to say how powerful the explosive device was.
The woman’s attorney, Jacques Beetge, said his client was living in fear of her life and that of her son.
“Information suggests that this is an extremely dangerous man who is now allegedly on the run from police.
“She found the device behind a seat in her husband’s bakkie and brought it, along with a 9mm pistol and ammunition for a handgun and a shotgun, to the police station, where she handed it over,” he said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Agnes Huma confirmed that the backpack had contained what was believed to be an improvised explosive device.
“At this stage, all we can say is that police recovered evidence at the scene after the device was destroyed in a controlled explosion.”
Asked why it had been blown up and not kept for court purposes, Huma said the danger posed to the police explosive experts if they had tried to dismantle or open the package was too great.
“The situation required that it be destroyed. Police photographed it, and once it was destroyed, gathered evidence that was left over.”
Huma confirmed that they were looking for the woman’s husband on charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition and the illegal possession of explosives.
Depending on the investigation, more charges could be added against him.
Asked if the man man might be linked to a suspected eastern Europe crime ring, Huma declined to comment, saying the investigation was at an early stage.
On the assault charges brought against the woman’s son, Huma said they related to a different matter. She declined to comment on what matter they related to. - Pretoria News