Simba, an accomplished member of the Pietermaritzburg Dog Unit was shot and killed while on duty this week
Simba, an accomplished member of the Pietermaritzburg Dog Unit was shot and killed while on duty this week

Police dogs gunned down in the line of duty

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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IT WILL be a bleak Fathers’ Day for Captain Reeno Dayaram, a member of the Pietermaritzburg Dog Unit, his wife and three children today.

The “baby” in his family and trusted K-9 partner, Simba, was shot and killed while tracking armed suspects this week.

Captain Dayaram said the death of Simba, a Dutch Shepherd, who had been with him since 2010, was “like losing a son”.

Simba, an accomplished member of the Pietermaritzburg Dog Unit was shot and killed while on duty this week

Simba and two other police dogs (Shaka and Duke) were all shot in the head on Monday, at different times, while attempting to bring down a gang of armed suspects who were fleeing from police and ran into a dense sugarcane field, in the Maqongqo area, about 25kms from Pietermaritzburg.

Shaka, a German Shepherd, also died at the scene, but Duke the Rottweiler was airlifted to a nearby animal hospital. It has since been reported that Duke is recovering well.

The group of four suspects allegedly gunned down Lieutenant-Colonel Jabulani Ndawonde, Ndwedwe’s acting station commander, last month, before making off with his service handgun and a R-5 rifle.

Some of the suspects were apparently on the run since escaping from a holding cell at the Durban High Court in March, shortly after being convicted on one attempted murder and five murder charges.

The charges relate to a 2017 shooting incident where the suspects killed five members of a family living in the Nteke area in Mariannhill.

Members of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and Crime Intelligence have been gathering information on the whereabouts of the suspects since their jailbreak, which culminated in a police task-team attempting to intercept the four suspects in Maqongqo.

When the suspects’ vehicle was stopped at around 7.30am, they shot at the police. Two of the suspects got out of the vehicle and ran into the sugarcane field.

The other two attempted to drive off, but their vehicle ran into a ditch. The driver was fatally wounded while the other suspect also managed to flee into the bush, in spite of his injuries.

Captain Dayaram arrived at the scene at around 11.30am with Simba, knowing about Shaka’s death.

Although an officer suggested to Dayaram not to enter the bush as they could be shot, it did not deter him.

“I said to myself, I have many years of experience and I cannot afford for us to stand down and let suspects go free. More policemen and dogs would be shot,” thought Dayaram, who has been a policeman for 30 years, of which 28 were with the dog unit.

He got directions on where the suspects entered the bush and began tracking with Simba leading the way on a puppy line.

Handlers use puppy lines to keep pace with their dogs.

“I had Simba on half a length of puppy line (about 4m) because I knew the suspects were armed and I tried to stay as close as possible.”

More than 200m into the bush, he felt a tug on the line and heard a suspect moaning.

“I started to run towards the dog when I heard gunfire. Simba was lying a metre away from the suspect.”

Dayaram and another policeman returned fire and fatally wounded the suspect.

“I knelt next to my dog, stroked his fur, and spoke with him until he took his last breath,” he said.

Dayaram got Simba from a dog-breeder when his previous dog was killed on duty in 2010. Simba was nine-months-old when Dayaram donated him to the SAPS. The dog was trained and they became partners in 2011.

Dayaram said they had worked on numerous cases over the years, and brought down hundreds of hardened criminals, which made Simba a highly-rated dog in police circles.

“He was brave and awesome. We worked mainly on high profile matters for the DPCI and other specialised units. Simba knew how to differentiate between policemen, civilians and criminals.

“His speed and power was such that he often took down guys firing wildly with AK-47 rifles and 9mm pistols. This was the first time he was injured in any way, while on duty.”

Dayaram said his wife and children were also deeply affected as Simba had lived with his family for the past six years.

“I am on call 24/7. Therefore, he stayed with me.

“At work, he is a worker and was switched on. At home, he switched off and was the baby and even slept on our beds at night. My family adored him and he was protective of them.”

Simba was the baby in Captain Reeno Dayaram’s home, he seen receiving a warm embrace from Dayaram’s daughter, Trizae, the night before he was shot and killed. Seated alongside is the family’s other dog, Sparky Picture: Supplied

Dayaram said his wife suggested previously that he should learn from Simba how to switch off from work when he was home.

While losing his partner was a huge strain, Dayaram was back at work the next day.

“I am looking forward to teaming up with another dog. I still have a lot of energy to do fieldwork. Simba’s death won’t deter me from working with dogs again,” he said.

National SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Katlego Mogale, said earlier this week that various charges, including 13 counts of attempted murder and the illegal possession of firearms and weapons, were opened against the remaining suspects.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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