Fed-up resident outguns thugs

Jaap van Tonder was attacked outside his Brooklyn home by a gang of would-be robbers. Photo: Phill Magakoe

Jaap van Tonder was attacked outside his Brooklyn home by a gang of would-be robbers. Photo: Phill Magakoe

Published May 31, 2011


Fearing for his wife’s life as a robber held a gun to her head, an infuriated Pretoria resident took the law into his own hands and shot his attacker and at least one of his accomplices.

Jaap van Tonder, who is being hailed as a hero, simply had enough on Monday when he and his wife, Mari, were attacked as they stopped in the driveway of their Brooklyn home. The couple, who live opposite Pretoria Oos Primary and Pretoria Boys High schools, had just returned from a bank when at least three men, who are believed to have followed them, launched their lunch-time attack.

Stopping behind the couple, one of the gunmen ran up to them and put a gun to Mari van Tonder’s head as she climbed out of the car.

Frozen with shock, Mari van Tonder watched as her husband, realising that they were about to be robbed, fired at their attackers.

“I just froze. This man came at me out of nowhere,” she said.

“When I heard my husband screaming and then shooting I knew I was okay and that he was alive,” she added as a neighbour comforted her.

Jaap van Tonder fired at the man who was holding a gun to his wife’s head, wounded him in the chest and then chased him.

“I just grabbed my gun and started shooting. I shot until I had nothing left to shoot at. I’d just had enough. It was as simple as that,” he said.

“I was not going to let these thugs kill my wife or me or get away with our money.”

As the wounded gunman ran for the getaway car and climbed in, Jaap van Tonder pursued him, shooting at him.

He also fired at the man’s accomplices who, by then, were shooting at him from their vehicle.

As the men reversed from the driveway of his Roper Street home, Jaap van Tonder carried on firing, riddling their Mercedes-Benz with bullets.

“I was so angry. I was determined to do everything in my power to stop these guys,” he said.

Unable to keep up with the fleeing men, he abandoned his chase. The gunmen crashed into a vehicle driven by Pretoria University student Martin Zekveld, turned into Ambrose Street and escaped.

As Jaap van Tonder returned to check on his wife, the gunmen - some of whom are believed to have been seriously wounded - abandoned their car in William Street and hijacked a woman they had forced off the road.

Pushing a gun into her face and threatening to shoot her, they pulled the screaming woman from her car, a white VW Jetta, and then sped off in it.

When told that the gang had abandoned their silver Mercedes-Benz, Jaap van Tonder made his way to the scene, where residents hailed him as a hero.

“He could have been killed, but he didn’t think about it,” said a woman, who asked not to be named. “He was more concerned about stopping these guys than saving his own life. He is a hero.”

Sarel van Tonder (no relation) said it was good to know that there were people who were prepared to stand up to thugs.

“Too often people are afraid and rightly so, but it is fantastic when people like this guy come along and say ‘No more’,” he said.

Zekveld said he was driving from the university when he heard shots.

“I didn’t know what was happening. I heard the shots and then saw the car racing out of the driveway. It crashed into me before it raced off. It was so quick. You don’t even have time to realise what’s going on.”

Brooklyn police station commissioner Brigadier André Wiese said investigators found a 9mm pistol in the gang’s car. There was also blood in the car.

“At least one, if not more, were wounded during the shootout. We are searching the hospitals and are hoping to find the suspects soon.”

Wiese said Jaap van Tonder would not be charged as he had not done anything wrong.

“The man was defending himself and his family and could easily have been killed by those who were attacking him.” - Pretoria News

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