A Joburg family used an iPad app to help the police track a gang of house robbers terrorising residents in the upmarket suburbs of Bryanston and Douglasdale.
Last Wednesday the Haynes family was confronted by armed, balaclava-clad men in their bedrooms. They were tied up and robbed in the early hours. But just hours after the robbers made their getaway, the police swooped on the men at a house in Tembisa after the family activated the iCloud service for iPads and iPhones.
The police say the men have been linked to several other robberies in Douglasdale, Randburg and Bryanston. It is believed that they are also connected to the robbery of Constitutional Judge Justice Sisi Khampepe who was robbed in her home at gunpoint earlier this month.
The app (using sophisticated satellite technology) can be used as a real-time GPS location-tracking device giving the exact location of the phone in real time. Users can watch on an iPhone or iPad as the location is pinpointed on a map, and updated every several seconds, accurately. The person holding the device won’t even know they are being tracked.
Around 2.25am, Andrew Haynes and his wife LisaAnn woke to the sight and sounds of two armed men in their bedroom. The men were cool, calm and collected but they made their criminal intention clear.
“I am amazed. You hear horror stories. They obviously were professional. It seemed as if they had done this before. They were not rude, they didn’t harm us at all. But they said they would kill us if we didn’t co-operate. So we did,” Andrew Haynes told the Saturday Star.
The couple’s two sons, Dylan, 16, and Bradley, 18, who were asleep in their own rooms, were fetched from their beds and taken to the main bedroom.
“They tied us up with scarves and neckties. They took all our jewellery – they used conditioner from the bathroom to get our rings off.”
Their ordeal lasted about 90 minutes. When the robbers were satisfied with their stash, they loaded it into the family’s Mercedes Benz.
Then they asked Haynes how long he would wait before he reported the robbery. He replied that he would call them in 30 minutes.
“He said that’s good. He said ‘We want to be safe and we want you to be safe.’ We waited only 10 minutes.
“Both my mother and mother-in law have flatlets on the property. We had no idea at this point if they had been targeted as well.
“My wife and son were able to free themselves of their bonds fairly quickly after the two had made their getaway. We were able to raise the alarm with my mother-in-law who called 10111 and then activated the ADT alarm. Both ADT and the Randburg Flying Squad responded within 10 to 15 minutes.”
The robbers took items worth nearly R1 million including Haynes’s car, TV sets, cameras and other valuables. They also took iPhones and iPads – which they probably now regret.
“When we got the iPads, we registered all the devices with iCloud. My son Dylan is the one who reminded me about it, and insisted we check it out.
“We saw the location of one of the phones – it was moving on the map. But the iPad was stationary. It was at an address in Tembisa. Then we changed the map to a photograph and we could see the house and we could see that the iPad was in a shack behind the house – that is how accurate the iCloud is.”
By 5.30am the police had found Haynes’s car at the side of a road in Rabie Ridge with some of the family’s belongings and had arrested four men.
“The police were excited and amazed at the information we were able to give them. They couldn’t believe that we had found our things and the robbers. Normally in an incident like this, they look for a needle in a haystack. So they were thrilled.”
Haynes praised the police – from the Randburg police station and the provincial office, as well as ADT security for their “wonderful service”.
“We all love to complain about the police, about how they don’t do their work. However, we must give praise where praise is due. We have been through trauma as a family. But we want to compliment all the police for their brilliant work.”
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