Durban - It took minutes for neighbours to raise the alarm about an armed robbery in a home, saving a family from a gang of balaclava-clad men.
A newly formed neighbourhood watch and two armed-response officers were hailed for their swift action on Friday in taking on the criminals.
Bullets ricocheted across a quiet street in Malvern in a shoot-out between the men and security officers as the security staff drew the gunfire away from the terrified family in their home.
One security officer was shot and a second had a narrow miss.
Natasha Anup and her sons, aged 13 and 16, were held at gunpoint in their home. The quick thinking of Natasha’s husband Anesh, neighbour Dineshin Govender, and the heroic actions of the security officers saved the family from the gunmen.
Natasha said she had just had a shower early on Thursday evening, wrapped herself in a duvet and was lying on her bed when she felt someone lifting her duvet.
“I thought it was the kids and said ‘leave me alone’. Suddenly I felt someone next to me and there was a gun pointing to my head.
“He took me through to the lounge where my two boys were already being held at gunpoint and told to lie on the floor. At one point, one of them stood on my younger son’s back and had a cocked gun to his head. My younger son started to have a panic attack and I told him to be calm and that they wouldn’t hurt us.
“My husband was washing the bakkie outside and I don’t think they had seen him.
“They were wearing balaclavas and told us not to look at them,” she said. The gang ransacked the house while she and her sons remained motionless on the floor.
The six men had forced open the sliding gate and reversed their black VW Polo into the driveway. Anesh remained unseen as he cleaned his car in the unlit area at the back.
“When I went to the back door, I saw a man in a balaclava standing inside. I quickly ducked back and called for help via our neighbourhood watch WhatsApp group,” he said.
Neighbour and Parkside Neighbourhood Watch member, Dineshin Govender, saw the message and, going out to his verandah, saw the black VW Polo and a hooded man standing guard in the Anup home's driveway. Govender pressed his alarm and within minutes, Blue Security arrived and blocked the gang’s vehicle in the driveway.
The gang had been alerted by their lookout about the security officers.
Blue Security operations director Brian Jackson said the lookout suspect fired a shot at their officer.
“A bullet hit the top of the armed-response vehicle windscreen, went through the visor and missed the officer’s head by millimetres before hitting and exiting the head rest,” he said.
“Our officer went for his firearm in an attempt to draw the danger away from the family home, which was in his line of return fire. But the suspects were relentless as he took cover down the road and called for back-up.”
The men jumped into the getaway vehicle and sped down the road, “shooting indiscriminately at the back-up vehicle that had just arrived”, said Jackson.
“A shot was fired through the door of the vehicle and hit the officer’s right thigh before entering his left thigh and exiting again, according to paramedics at the scene.”
Govender said members of their newly formed Parkside Neighbourhood Watch had converged to assist.
“We have a group of dedicated people, and as soon as the alarm was sent out, the neighbourhood came out and if those guys had not fled, they would have been caught,” said Govender.
Anesh said his family had been traumatised, while Natasha said: “Hats off to our community who rallied around. God willing, we were all saved, when the alarm went out it took minutes, but it felt like hours.”
Friday afternoon Jackson confirmed their officer had undergone surgery and was reported to be stable. Malvern SAPS also attended the scene.