80-year-old Bedfordview pizzeria owner dies during robbery

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published May 1, 2021

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Johannesburg - The death of a pizzeria owner has prompted a warning for patrons to be extra vigilant following a number of recent restaurant robberies.

Eighty-year-old Antonio Vieira stopped breathing after robbers placed tape over his mouth during a hold up at his pizzeria at a BP petrol station in Bedfordview.

Following the incident the Bedfordview CPF urged its members and the public not to wear expensive jewellery or watches while dining out.

“Now they are not even after the till money any more, it is just easy pickings,” said the chairman of the CPF Gavin Henry explaining that criminals are increasingly targeting customers for their cellphones, wallets and jewellery.

Besides restaurant hold ups, criminals have also of late turned to snatching cellphones from outside tables, often using a getaway car to escape.

But the incident at the BP garage that happened on the morning of Sunday April 25 has shocked the community.

Vieira was well known in the area and had owned the pizzeria for years.

According to police, two men entered the premises just as Vieira was opening the shop that morning.

The men produced firearms and proceeded to tie Vieira and an employee’s hands. Then they taped their mouths shut.

After stealing an undisclosed amount of money, the two men fled in a white Toyota Quantum.

The employee managed to free himself and tell others they had been robbed.

But when they returned and removed the tape from Vieira’s mouth, they discovered he had stopped breathing. Paramedics declared him dead at the scene.

Police have yet to make arrests, said spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo.

A month ago, not far from Vieira’s pizzeria in neighbouring Kensington, the well known Italian restaurant Ottimo was hit.

“They rang the doorbell and asked if they could have a table for three,” said the manager of the restaurant Franco Cimato. “Then they walked to the back door where the bathroom is and that is where they pulled out the guns and told everyone to get down.”

The three armed men stole cellphones, money and a laptop.

This was the first time in 30 years that Ottimo was robbed.

There have been other brazen attacks across Gauteng.

In October last year, CCTV footage went viral on social media after two armed men held up a table of customers at the Istanbul Kebab, in the Sunninghill shopping centre,

The armed men forced their victims to the ground before tying their hands up. They then removed watches, wallets and other items from each of them.

On 24 February three armed robbers held up staff at the RocoMamas restaurant in Kyalami, and tried to steal staff salaries.

After they were told that the salaries were paid through the bank they instead took cellphones, liquor and money from the till.

“I predict it is going to increase, and the problem is that it is not going to stop,” said Henry.

There are plans of possibly moving Ottimo restaurant to a more secure site.

“We have added more lights outside, we have panic buttons now. But don't know what more to do,” said Cimato.

The Saturday Star

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