While Fahima Ismail was indulging in the offerings at the Kings Park Stadium-based fair, which had an eastern flavour, with her husband Shaheed and daughter Neelam on December 28, robbers stripped parts from her Toyota Corolla.
“My car was ransacked and the computer box and ignition were taken, but as the car was being readied for towing, Neelam found an unknown cellphone on the back seat.
“We suspected it belonged to the robber,” Ismail claimed.
Ismail sought the help of a security official, Shane Sterling, who took the phone from her to verify its ownership.
“When I asked Shane to return the phone so I could hand it to police, he insisted on keeping it,” she said.
“I trusted him and let him keep the phone, but I have not been able to reach him since and his wife said he was not available.” SAPS spokesperson, Captain Thembeka Mbhele, confirmed a case of theft was being investigated by police, but could not provide details on the missing cellphone.
Sterling, however, claimed the cellphone belonged to an innocent man whose phone had gone missing earlier.
Sterling said: “I took the cellphone to see who it belonged to. When I switched it on I was able to contact the owner as he sent a WhatsApp message after seeing his number was being used.”
Sterling, who has been in the security business for 16 years, said when he returned the phone to its apparent owner, a man from Cato Manor, he could see the man was “genuinely innocent”.
“I was just the middle man and tried to help as best I could. I haven’t been able to return her (Ismail’s) calls because I am constantly working. And when I met the owner of the phone I could tell in my heart that he was a good guy,” he said.
Sterling said he had misplaced the man’s details as he was in the process of relocating. He added it was common for robbers to plant items belonging to others in order to escape suspicion.
Ismail was incensed that Sterling had released possible evidence.
“Regardless of who the phone belonged to, it was evidence that he tampered with. That phone was a key link to the robbers and it would have helped to ensure justice was done,” she claimed.
Ismail believes the fair organisers ought to take responsibility for her loss. However, a disclaimer in the parking area warns motorists they park at their own risk.
“I want to know what were the security officials doing at the time of the robbery?” Ismail asked.
The fair’s management was asked for comment but had not submitted a response at the time of going to print.