A WOUNDED fugitive was shot and killed as he tried to shoot a security guard to make good his escape from large contingent of law enforcers in Richmond outside Pietermaritzburg yesterday morning.
Five of his accomplices were shot and killed on Sunday night when they tried to rob a farm near Richmond.
The suspect was killed at about 8 am along the Eston road, four kilometres from where the five others were killed at Little Harmony farm at about 10 pm on Sunday.
A seventh man was arrested in the bush opposite the farm yesterday morning as he tried to escape.
Members of Magma Security and Armed Response and police from various units reacted to a tip-off alerting them to plans to rob the farm at about 7 pm on Sunday.
Magma Security manager Shaheen Suleiman said that immediately after the tip-off he and his armed security guards, with with six police officers, rushed to the farm to alert the owners.
“We had been told about a plan to commit a farm robbery. We arrived at the farm ahead of the men, and we informed the owners about what was about to happen. We told them to go into their houses and instructed them to remain inside.
“We then waited for the men to arrive. They arrived at about 10 pm. After they had opened the gate we approached them and ordered them ‘izandla phezulu’ (hands up), but they started shooting at us, which is when we fired back,” said Suleiman.
While the five men lay dying the other two escaped with gunshot wounds to their lower bodies.
The armed security guards and police launched a massive night-long manhunt.
“In the morning we received information from a local resident about a man seen limping in the bush near the farm. When we got there the suspect tried to shoot at my members, who fired back and killed the suspect,” said Suleiman.
The crispness of the morning with birds chirping in leafless wintery trees, cows grazing and green lawns suggested a scene of tranquillity. But when The Witness had a closer look around the farm it resembled a war zone. Just beyond the gate were deep pools of congealed blood.
Police also marked the ground where they picked up about 50 spent cartridges.
During the shootout a bullet ricocheted off a wall and into a light, tripping the electricity and leaving the area in darkness.
The body of the last suspect to be killed lay on the side of the road surrounded by police and security guards.
Suleiman said that according to police records the men were from Georgedale, Hammarsdale, Ndengezi and Dassenhoek.
“These guys are known to have killed business people in Mpumalanga township, and police know them through their criminal records,” said Suleiman.
Craig Marwick (57) owns the farm with his brother. They live there with their parents in three farm houses.
Marwick said they were all a “bit shaky” from the incident, but they were grateful to the police and Magma Security.
The family farms sugar cane and timber and employed Magma about a year ago after a number of “cattle slaughterings” in the past.
Marwick advised his neighbours to “look at security and be vigilant”.
Suspects linked to 25 robberies, murders and murder bids
REACTING to the incident, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu MEC said: “It is indeed frustrating that when the police give the criminals an order to surrender, the criminals sees it as an opportunity to shoot at the police.”
His spokesperson, Kwanele Ncalane, said police recovered seven firearms from the suspects.
Ncalane said the suspects are linked to 25 robberies, attempted murders and murders under investigation in Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Pinetown and Mariannhill. Apparently one of the crimes is the murder of a Hammarsdale businessman last week.
“I cannot reveal the details of those cases because there are under investigation,” said Ncalane.
Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) spokesperson Moses Dlamini, who said only four firearms were recovered with serial numbers filed off, confirmed the ICD is investigating the incident, as they are required to do when a suspect “dies in police captivity”. He said the seven suspects were planning to steal money and firearms from the Marwicks’ farm.
Farm union KwaNalu security desk spokesperson Koos Marais said, “Though the loss of life at any time is regretted, KwaNalu believes that the steps taken by the police and the combined effort of the community and other services to prevent another farm attack or the murder of an essential food producer will send out a strong message to would-be criminals. The fast but firm reaction by the SAPS is laudable.”