By Matthew Savides and Charmel Bowman
Westville Prison escaper Nhlanhla Lucky Mhlongo didn't stand a chance.
At 2.30am on Saturday a crack 10-man police unit stormed a house in Groutville, KwaDukuza, to arrest the alleged ATM bomber and cop-killer who was one of nine men who escaped from Westville Prison on February 21.
hlongo apparently opened fire on the police but each of his four shots missed. An officer fired a single shot, hitting Mhlongo in the chest. He was dead minutes later.
He was the third member of the gang caught by police. The other two are Thozamile Taki - a suspected serial killer who fell and broke a leg as he tried to escape - and Simon Bouque, who was facing charges of robbery, murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Bouque has also been named as the kingpin behind organising fake bail documents for other prisoners. He was arrested in Umlazi, Durban, early on Friday morning and has already been sent to a maximum security prison in Kokstad.
Senior superintendents Vincent Mdunge and Jay Naicker expressed confidence that the remaining six men - Thulani Shandu, Sibusiso Thili Mzimela, Siboniso Zuma, Nkosinathi Nzama Mabaso, Nhlanhla Mduduzi Mngadi and Mandla Mavundla - would soon be arrested.
Mdunge described them as "extremely dangerous".
Describing yesterday's shooting, Mdunge said police had no choice but to shoot at Mhlongo.
"Knowing the danger that he (Mhlongo) posed to the community and to the police, we had to move in quickly. This was an intelligence-driven operation so we knew exactly which house he was in and which room he was in.
"We had to move fast to get to him before he could act, but even though we did that, it wasn't quick enough and he was able to fire some shots," Mdunge said.
Organised Crime Unit officers had gone in through the only entrance to the room, but Mhlongo still wasn't able to hit with any of the four shots he fired from his .38 revolver. One of the officers returned fire and hit Mhlongo in the chest. He died at the scene.
Mdunge said Mhlongo was responsible for "a spate of ATM bombings in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and had also killed a police officer, who tried to arrest him after one of the bombings".
A day earlier, at 5am on Friday, Bouque was arrested as he slept in a "hideout" in N-Section, Umlazi.
Naicker said yesterday that Bouque appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate's Court just hours after his arrest, pleaded guilty to the escape charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Possibly fearful of another escape, police have not sent him to Westville Prison.
Instead, Naicker said: "He will be held at the Kokstad Maximum Security Prison."
While the remaining six are still at large, Mdunge said that police were following up on information as to their whereabouts.
Question marks have been raised about their escape from the Medium A section of the prison, especially as to how they were able to cut through steel doors, window bars and grill gates before making a dash to freedom without being heard.
They apparently used sheets to construct a makeshift rope and climb down from the seventh floor, again, apparently, without being seen or heard. Taki, who was the last down the rope, fell when the sheets eventually tore.