Cops investigate killing of Tongaat robbery suspect

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Sep 23, 2020

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Nadia Khan and Thandeka Mgqibi

Durban - A GROUP of people, fed up with crime in oThongathi (Tongaat), allegedly beat to death a suspected house robber.

Police are now not only investigating the robbery, they are also investigating the death of the suspected robber.

A resident, who asked not to be named, said he saw a black car with tinted windows early on Friday in Sastri Circle.

He said there were three men inside who drove off when they realised they were being watched by residents.

Later that afternoon the same vehicle was on the road. When the resident approached, they drove off. The man then alerted those on the local WhatsApp group of the presence of the vehicle in the area.

“At about 6pm I went outside and saw the same vehicle parked near a neighbour’s house. I called my neighbour to check if he knew who it was or if someone had come to see him, but he said no.

“I called the neighbour on the opposite side of the road but he also did not know anything about the vehicle. I became a bit suspicious and alerted some of the neighbourhood watch guys.

“They arrived and parked a few metres away from that vehicle and watched it. We did not approach the vehicle as we did not know if the occupants were armed,” said the resident.

A few minutes later the driver started the car and began moving. As members of the neighbourhood followed, they noticed two men running out of neighbouring properties and getting into the car.

“We gave chase and after about 30 metres they took a turn into a oneway road and rammed into a vehicle. All three men jumped out and started running in different directions.”

The resident said he and about five other men chased one of the suspects. However, the suspect managed to run into some bushes and escaped. By the time the resident returned, police and private security companies were on the scene.

According to Prem Balram from the private security company Reaction Unit South Africa, a black SEAT Ibiza collided with a white BMW.

The driver of the Ibiza was found on the ground and had sustained head injuries.

Balram said two of the suspects had fled but the driver had allegedly been beaten with baseball bats and sticks by members of the public.

According to Balram, a microwave and other household items the men had allegedly stolen from a nearby house was recovered in the black car.

Balram said police requested medical assistance for the injured man but he died at the scene. He was identified as Abuu Omari Hassani, 36.

Hassani’s father, who did not want to be named, said he was aware of the allegations made against his son. He said the family were conducting their own investigation.

“Nothing at this point makes sense and we have so many questions. No matter what my son was alleged to have done, nobody had the right to take the law into their own hands.

“We will fight to get to the bottom of this and meet the perpetrators in court,” he said.

He had found out about this son’s death through social media which was insensitive, Hassani said.

Professor Shannon Hoctor, a lecturer at the UKZN School of Law in Pietermaritzburg and editor-in-chief of the South African Journal of Criminal Justice, said: “Vigilantism is another way of describing these acts. The following definition of vigilantism usefully describes this phenomenon: law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed group of people.

“By taking the law into his or her own hands, a vigilante or person engaging in mob justice is stepping outside of the recognised processes of the legal system, and by ignoring the rule of law as enforced by the police and courts, such a person is acting unlawfully.”

Hoctor said that if a suspected offender died after being assaulted by a vigilante group, the members of the group could be charged with murder if the possibility of death was foreseen.

“If the members of the group did not foresee the possibility of death occurring, but ought to have done so, there could be charges of culpable homicide.”

Captain Nqobile Gwala, a KZN police spokesperson, said Tongaat SAPS were investigating charges of murder, burglary, reckless and negligent driving, possession of housebreaking implements and possession of stolen property.

According to the SAPS crime statistics released earlier this year, there were 21 130 robberies and 205 959 burglaries at residential premises nationally from April last year to March this year.

In KwaZulu-Natal there were 4 575 cases of robbery and 35 290 cases of burglary at residential premises.

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