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A mistake has given a team of private investigators a lead into the identity of a female robber believed to be linked to at least 17 crimes, including the murder of a Pretoria vet.

The dark-haired woman, who allegedly robbed a chocolate warehouse in Jet Park on the East Rand on Wednesday didn’t appear too worried about hiding her identity when she was caught on CCTV with a pistol in her hand. Her face could clearly be seen and there was a reason for this.

Moments earlier the gang had removed the CCTV cameras and hard drives, but they didn’t know about the back-up.

With these images, private investigator Mike Bolhuis and his team were able to draw up an Identikit of the woman and have allegedly linked her to 17 other crimes. One of these is the murder of veterinarian Dr Fred Malan who was shot when a female member and two male accomplices robbed his Jacaranda Animal Clinic in Pretoria Moot on January 31.

“We have had at least 30 people who have come forward with information and we are working through the weekend,” Bolhuis said. Bolhuis also believes that the same woman was involved in the robbery of the House of Ameera store in Nelson Mandela Square, in Sandton, last month. During this robbery, the woman asked to be shown the most expensive watch they had in the store. This was a Audemars Piguet watch believed to be worth R2.9million which was part of a haul of jewellery worth R8m, that she and her gang made off with.

Sandton SAPS believe that they have identified the woman. “We are investigating, and they are linked to other crimes,” said Sandton police station spokesperson Captain Granville Meyer, who wouldn’t identify the suspect as it could jeopardise the case.

But the Sandton robbery marked a change in the modus operandi of the gang, says Bolhuis.

Prior to the murder of Malan, the gang had targeted veterinary and doctor’s practices. The female member of the gang would be used to gain access to the premises, and once inside her two male accomplices would join her. “It was a Bonnie and Clyde gang, with an extra wheel,” explained Bolhuis. They would take guns from her handbag and stick up staff and clients, robbing them of cellphones, money and jewellery. She would then act as the getaway driver. They ranged across Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Kenvalley Veterinary Clinic, in Kensington was robbed in November, so was the Randburg Veterinary Hospital.

After Malan’s murder, Bolhuis believes the gang went underground for five months. But then last month they were back. In the space of a month the gang has committed at least seven robberies. These have been bigger, with larger gangs. And like the Sandton heist, more daring. There has also been a change, noticed in the images of the woman robber. She is less nervous and more assertive.

“Looking at the CCTV you can see that she is the mastermind,” said Bolhuis, who advised the public not to approach any of these gang members as they are believed to be armed and dangerous.

The Saturday Star