Johannesburg - A brazen shootout with the police resulted in the death of an escapee murder suspect in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, last week.
Police say they are still trailing the remaining escapees who are on the run following a bold escape on the Golden Highway in February.
Mzwakhe Thabethe was one of five murder suspects who ran from a police truck after it was fired upon on its way back from court.
The truck was attacked by assailants in a silver-grey BMW sedan using rifles until the driver lost control.
Ekurhuleni metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wilfred Kgasago on Tuesday confirmed that Thabethe became the third of the five suspects to be killed when police shot him in the early hours of the morning.
“The suspect was shot in a back room on a property in Katlehong. Police arrived just after midnight on Wednesday, April 25. They followed up information that linked that suspect as one of the men who escaped from the prison,” Kgasago said.
“The team that went there knocked at the door and identified themselves. This guy then started shooting from inside the back room.
“That is when the police decided to return fire. The Z88 9mm pistol recovered is believed to be the one stolen from the wounded policeman on the day of the February attack on the Golden Highway. A stolen vehicle was also recovered in yard where the suspect was shot,” he said.
Kgasago said the suspect was alone in the back room when the shootout occurred.
He added that the team involved in cornering the 36-year-old Thabethe consisted of the EMPD, the Joburg metro police department and the Soweto K9 unit of the SAPS.
However, Kgasago could not say what Thabethe’s connection with the property he was found on was, saying only that the murder accused was the only person the police had pursued that morning.
Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said the other two escapees were still on the run, but police had not given up on rearresting them.
“The manhunt for the remaining suspects is ongoing. There are leads which we are following at the moment but we have yet to arrest them,” Dlamini said.
The February escape was the second in less than six months, after 20 awaiting-trial prisoners escaped from a police truck that was metres away from the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, where they had appeared.
It was another Hollywood-style escape after a white Mercedes-Benz ambushed two unsuspecting police officers.
Last month, 16 prisoners from Johannesburg Prison were also involved in a daring breakout from the facility. Seven of the escapees have been rearrested, and two more were gunned down in another shootout with police in KwaZulu-Natal.
Dlamini confirmed that two officials from the prison, popularly known as Sun City, had been arrested for allegedly aiding in the escape.
The Department of Correctional Services has suspended seven officials on full pay regarding the escape.
“Our responsibility is to ensure our facilities are centres of rehabilitation. We will continue to root out all unlawful activities to maintain a high standard of safety and security,” Mocheta Monama, spokesperson for Correctional Services, said.