Pietermaritzburg – Six seconds is all it took for brazen robbers to snatch almost R100 000 from an unsuspecting woman in the Pietermaritzburg CBD on Tuesday.
The robbers, who confronted and threatened the woman at gunpoint, are believed to be a highly professional gang.
Police are on the hunt for the men and no arrests have been made yet.
Speaking to The Witness on Wednesday, the middle-aged Howick woman described her ordeal.
She has asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals by the gang.
The woman said she left her farm on Tuesday morning to withdraw a large sum of cash from the Absa bank in Chatterton Road.
It is believed the money was to be used to pay her farm workers’ wages.
With the cash in hand, the woman drove to popular wholesale outlet Phoenix Cash and Carry in Victoria Road to purchase stock for her farm.
It is believed her attackers, who were driving an expensive white BMW 3-series, followed her from the bank to the parking lot of the wholesaler.
CCTV footage from the wholesaler’s premises shows the woman entering the parking lot in her Hilux bakkie just before 11:00 on Tuesday.
A few seconds later, the BMW is spotted entering the parking lot behind her.
The driver stalls for a few seconds, allowing another vehicle to reverse out of a parking space, before slowly making his way behind the bakkie, jamming the woman into her parking space.
The woman said she was “fiddling around inside her bakkie” and getting “everything in order” before getting out of her car.
As she steps out of the bakkie, two men disguised with balaclavas are seen on the camera footage jumping out of the BMW.
The two men are seen crouching down and running towards the woman, and after a lightning fast tussle, dash back to their getaway car.
‘They had guns. It was so quick’
“When I got out of my bakkie, I saw two men running towards me. They had guns. It was so quick. They took my bag before I even had time to think,” the woman said.
“They knew what they were doing. One of the men twisted me around and took my bag. They were gone in a flash.”
The men got back into the vehicle and sped off, leaving the woman in a panic.
“Bystanders in the parking lot started to scream, they knew before I did what was going on. I froze and could not even scream,” she said.
The ordeal lasted just six seconds.
Terrified, the woman got back into her bakkie and drove off, calling her husband. She was flagged down by guards employed by the wholesaler just as she got on the road.
According to a police source, the men made off with almost R100 000 in cash.
Eight seconds too late
Phoenix Cash and Carry security manager Alan Vadivelu said his guards were quick to respond, with their run from the entrance into the parking taking only eight seconds.
“We were eight seconds too late. This has never happened before in our car park and our customers’ safety is of the utmost importance,” Vadivelu said.
“Our reaction was immediate, we were seconds off. We stopped the woman and did everything in our capability to assist by getting her water and calling the police for her.”
Vadivelu said he has increased his security, which already comprises armed foot patrols and cameras positioned both inside and outside the store.
“We are thankful nobody was hurt,” Vadivelu said.
The woman emphasised her appreciation for Vadivelu and his team who assisted her.
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the BMW’s licence plates had been cloned and an investigation was under way.
A police source said the number plates were traced to a Scottsville resident, but it was found that his vehicle was parked at his work place at the time of the incident.
The police source said the robbers had cloned the number plates and even used a similar vehicle as a getaway car.
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It is believed the Scottsville man’s BMW was the same make, model and colour as the one used in the attack.
However, the getaway vehicle had different specifications and a sunroof.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the vehicle or the identity of the robbers is urged to contact the Pietermaritzburg police station.