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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
April 10 2009 – PRETORIA, Pierre van Ryneveld suburb -- An armed man who was part of a three-member hijacking gang which had stolen a car at gunpoint outside a nursery school in Pretoria, was shot dead after a hot pursuit through fenced-in backyards by citizens' patrols and the police on Thursday.
Police station commander, director Andre Wiese of the Lyttelton police station, said the citizen's policing-forum (PVR) members who went into hot pursuit in cooperation with the police patrols, have probably saved the lives of many. He praised them for their courage.
It’s warfare in the suburbs of Pretoria…
This kind of thing is becoming a regular happening in this once so peaceful Pretoria suburb: on new years eve, December 31st 2008, the same section of Pierre van Ryneveld around Melville and Jim Verster streets was also besieged by a combination of police vehicles, a police helicopter and many of the local residents when a group of armed men also attempted to flee through the gardens after an armed robbery. On January 16, several large gangs of armed robbers also besieged the suburb in a spate of attacks in which two people were shot, a domestic worker was raped and dozens of citizens terrorised inside their homes.
Two of the three suspects were armed, and were shooting wildly towards unarmed citizens while running through the backyards, climbing walls and fences, with one even climbing a tree and shooting straight at the citizens from his high perch at one stage…
Picture: This was taken by community member Cornél van Heerden of Pierre van Byleveld, Pretoria -- showing one of the guns used by the armed hijackers of a mom’s car outside a nursery school in a Pretoria suburb on April 7 2009. The suspect gunman’s body lies about 2m away from the gun he used while he was being chased by police and dozens of members of the community-policing forum.
Young mom’s car hijacked at school:
The Wild West scene started at around 4:40pm Thursday, when a young mom's car was hijacked while she was pulled up in front of her children's nursery school in the leafy Pretoria suburb of Pierre van Ryneveld.
Wiese said three armed men had hijacked this unnamed woman's car from right in front of the school, with two firing off shots in all directions to keep onlookers away -- although there were many toddlers inside the school, waiting to be fetched.
The gang hijacked the wrong car however: they had only driven 2km when it ran out of fuel - forcing the men to flee on foot into the neighbourhood's well-tended gardens.
Police dog unit
With several cars of the SA national police and the municipal police’s dog units all patrolling the neighbourhood searching for the men - also suspected of an armed robbery inside a local home shortly before the hijacking -- the suspects fled into a backyard and had gone to ground. They couldn’t be found for several hours.
However at around 9pm, with the entire community now on high alert and in touch with each other through their community-policing forum radios and cellphones, a woman alerted a community security guard to the three men: she’d spotted them, hiding beneath a bush in a neighbour's backyard.
Dozens of community members sprang into action, descending on the street and setting up road blocks. The three men fled, with two firing their handguns in all directions to try and keep the citizens and police away from them.
- Wiese said the men 'were jumping across fences and walls and fleeing through the backyards, trying to get away'.
Some community forum members, staying in contact with the police patrols, followed the men on foot while the citizens also threw up several roadblocks with the police to try and capture the men.
At one stage, one of the suspects had climbed a tree, shooting off his gun and shouting orders to his two fleeing comrades down below. The second gunman was running, climbing fences and shooting straight at the community forum members who were following him, Wiese said, when he ran into one of the citizens, and pointed his gun at this unarmed man.
However, a security guard who was involved in the chase, then shot this man -thus saving the citizen's life, said Wiese. Mr Hugo Minnaar of the Lifemed ambulance service said paramedics still tried to resuscitate the gunman on the scene, but he died.
- His two comrades got clean away - but police are still searching for them.
Commander Wiese thanked the community policing forum members for the 'active cooperation' they are giving to the police.
On new years eve, December 31st 2008, the section of Pierre van Ryneveld around Melville and Jim Verster streets was besieged by a combination of police vehicles, a police helicopter and many of the local residents when a group of armed men attempted to flee through the gardens in the vicinity.
The men had held a family hostage in Moreleta Park earlier in the day.
Mr Johan Bester of Moreleta park and his wife, his daughter, his mother and his mother-in-law had all been relaxing at home when the group of armed men burst in and held them at gun-point. They were all tied up and the men took what they wanted and left in a VW Golf.
Mr Bester was able to free himself and proceded to give chase after the men.
He took with him only his hand-gun and his cell-phone and was dressed only in shorts and socks.
He apparently said on the phone, while he was in pursuit, that he would chase them until they crashed their vehicle into a tree.
These words turned out to be profetic as the men turned off Hans Strydom drive into Pierre van Ryneveld and then took the corner into Melville street at high speed.
Unable to negotiate the corner they drove straight into a large tree on the pavement and all piled out of the vehicle and took flight on foot.
From there they split up and it was at this point that local members of the Pierre van Ryneveld Community Police Forum, as well as other local residents took up the chase.
Initially only one of the four was captured but due to the sterling work of members of the Lyttleton Police Department, the other three were eventually caught. The trail led them all the way back to Mamelodi where they caught the last member of the group at approximately 21:00 that night.
In another unrelated event, two robbers attempted to rob a house in Jim Verster street at roughly the same time as the Golf crashed into the tree.
Great was there surprise when an armada of police and locals descended on the area.
One of them was quickly caught and the other was located and arrested later in the day.
'These guys shoot without asking any questions'
In January 2009, local business owner and mother of two, Marina Bosch, was shot in the leg by one of this armed gang attacks and her driver seriously injured. She’d been cashing up during the early hours of Friday morning when three gunmen stormed her home in Fury Street -- shooting her driver Charles Smit, twice in the chest, critically injuring him before opening fire on her.
The attack came hours after a foiled attack on another woman in her home, and shortly after robbers stormed the home of Cynthia Uren, attacking and terrorising her and her children in a three-hour ordeal.
- The attack in Uren's security complex home ended when she leapt from her car as the four gunmen raced off with her and household appliances.
"I was not going to let them take me. I was rather going to be shot than dragged off somewhere terrible and raped," she said.
The gunmen are believed to have returned hours later to attack another homeowner in the same complex where they held him and his family up, robbing them of jewellery, money and cellphones.
The gang, according to local community police forum members and police sources, is also believed to be responsible for the attack on Neels Kruger and his children during the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Opened fire on the Kruger children:
Gunmen surprised Kruger's children as they were saying goodbye to friends. Opening fire on Kruger's children when one of their friends spotted them, the gunmen chased their victims into their Spitfire Street home where they continued firing indiscriminately before fleeing empty-handed when the house alarm was sounded.
Security guards who spotted the robbers fleeing along the R21 were forced to abandon their chase when the gunmen shot out their vehicle's tyres.
They shoot without asking questions…
Less than 24 hours before the attack on the Kruger family, two gunmen attacked a domestic worker in her Collyer Avenue home, repeatedly gang-raping her at gunpoint.
- Bosch's husband Christo, who managed to hide his children under blankets as the attackers rampaged through his house, said his family was terrified.
"These guys shoot without asking any questions. They don't care whether you live or die," he said describing how his wife had pleaded with them not to shoot her.
He said the gunmen had surprised them as Smit was leaving.
- "As he opened the door they opened fire. They just began shooting," he said. He said the worst thing was the feeling of helplessness.
"There is simply nothing you can do," said Bosch. Neels Kruger, describing how his children fled for their lives as the gunmen chased after them, said what had happened was frightening.
Recalling how the bullets narrowly missed hitting them, he said: "It is only by the grace of God that we are alive. These attacks happen so quickly and when you least expect them," he said.
Police spokeswoman Aveline Hardaker, said after these attacks that ‘the police were determining whether the attacks were linked. Police presence has been increased in the area," she said at that time…
How to survive a trip home late at night:
April 7 2009 attack:
Pierre van Ryneveld community policing forum:
Laws for Police Community Forums: