A MIDDLE-AGED Hillcrest couple, whose family members have been hijacked six times in the past three years, has been deeply traumatised by an extended ordeal at the hands of hijackers who threatened to rape and murder them if they did not comply fully with their demands.
The criminals, driving a stolen car, tried to force their victims off the road using a flashing blue light. When that failed, they fired a volley of shots into the driver’s door.
Trevor and Eileen (not their real names) left their home on a golfing estate in the early hours on September 29, to make the long trip to their holiday home in Port Elizabeth. They have driven the route many times over the years, and were travelling below the speed limit, towing a trailer.
At 3am, on the N2 between Izingolweni and Harding, a Nissan QashQai with a flashing blue, roof-mounted light, started trying to force the couple’s Toyota Prado off the road.
“Something just wasn’t right. I knew they couldn’t be the police because I hadn’t broken any rules of the road,” said Trevor. “I put my foot down on the accelerator, but then the shooting started.”
Six shots were fired from a handgun into the driver’s door. Miraculously, neither Trevor nor Eileen was hit.
“Four men approached our car and ordered us out at gunpoint,” Trevor related. “They said if we tried anything they would kill us.”
Unbeknown to their captors, Eileen speaks fluent Zulu and was able to understand every chilling word spoken in the car during the terrifying hours ahead.
Robbed of their wallets, phones and Eileen’s diamond rings, they were forced to give their pin numbers and banking details. “They said if we gave them false numbers, they would rape us before they killed us,” said Trevor.
After abandoning the trailer in a side road, the group split up, one driving the stolen, bullet-riddled Prado, and four in the QashQai. “They tied our hands tightly behind our backs, forced us onto the back seat and ordered us to keep our heads down,” Eileen said.
Trevor takes up the story. “When our hands started to swell, Eileen begged them to loosen them. They tightened them instead. We were screamed at constantly: ‘You white pigs. Understand one thing. This is our job,’ one of them bellowed.
“The man who seemed to be the ringleader said to us: ‘I am a quiet man but I am a very dangerous man, and if you escape, I will find and kill you’.”
Two of the men spoke flawless English, and the others had a good command of the language. When they wanted to conceal what they were saying, they switched to Zulu, unaware that Eileen understood.
“They started talking about where they would kill us – somewhere no one could hear the shots – and how they would dispose of our bodies. Every time the car stopped, we thought: ‘This is how it ends’.”
After driving for some time the criminals stopped at the Shell Ultra City at Umgababa, where they drew a large sum of money from their captives’ bank accounts at around 5.45am. The drive continued to Umlazi and then to Berea, stopping at a Shoprite centre near Noble Road. Then it was off to Prospecton, where they put R150 worth of fuel into the car at a Caltex garage.
“At regular intervals the driver would change. Because we were too scared to disobey them and lift our heads, we lost track of how many different men entered and left the car.”
Finally the hijackers drove to the suburb of Glenmore, next to UKZN, drove into the grounds of a residential home and stopped next to two parked minibus taxis. Several of the men left the car, leaving one to guard the couple.
“On a few occasions a young man of around 18, with light skin and a distinctive hairstyle with spiky, short dreadlocks, got into the car with us. He said he was sorry, but we would be alright if we co-operated.”
Hours later, the young man reversed the car into an open car park. Then Trevor and Eileen saw a helicopter circling up above, and prayed they had been spotted at last.
“At that point the young man drove the car out of the property and down the road. Then he got out and locked it, leaving us inside. I sat up and saw him running towards another man further up the road. They obviously thought the police had traced us.
“Run, Eileen!” I shouted. “This is our only chance.”
Weak from dehydration and fear, their bound hands swollen, they stumbled along the road, where a resident rescued them and called the police. Although the police response time was fast, no arrests were made.
Trevor and Eileen are suffering symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and are receiving counselling.
“We feel we have to warn other motorists,” Trevor said. “The QashQai the hijackers were driving was stolen in Mount Ayliff, using the same modus operandi with the blue light. The hijackers were dressed in police uniform and the driver was severely beaten and left in a cane field down the KZN north coast. The Harding police told us that men using a blue light also hijacked a man on the south coast on Sunday.”
The ordeal has also taken a heavy toll on the couple’s children: two sons and a daughter.
“We’re looking to emigrate,” said Trevor. “We love our country, but between the five of us we have been hijacked six times in the past three years. There is only so much one family can take.
“They were screaming along at 160km in broad daylight, driving stolen vehicles – one of which was riddled with bullet holes – and no one turned a hair. That’s an indictment of our society.” - Sunday Tribune