Trio return from beachfront meal to find belongings stolen from hire car
A dream holiday for three young German tourists turned sour yesterday when the rental car they had just picked up was broken into along Port Elizabeth’s busy beachfront. Joana Hartmann, Greta Lochte and Marieke Berndmeyer, all aged 20 and from Hanover in Germany, had arrived in town by bus yesterday morning after spending a few days in Aliwal North.
They were having something to eat at White Tiger at the Dolphins Leap complex, and watching dolphins frolicking in the surf, when personal items were stolen from the car.
When they returned to their hired Hyundai i10, parked directly opposite where they had been, they found the key would not turn when they tried to unlock a door.
“I noticed a pair of my flip-flops lying on the ground. I thought I forgot them there when I changed shoes when we arrived [at White Tiger],” Hartmann said.
They then noticed that a large red backpack and smaller black rucksack with neon orange stripes were missing from the back seat.
Lochte said it looked as though the bags had been rifled through because a make-up bag was left on the seat.
“I don’t know how no one noticed someone breaking into the car. It was parked right by the water, there were people walking around and surfers, but no one saw anything,” Hartmann said.
“When we asked the man controlling the car park what happened, he said he didn’t notice anything.”
Items stolen included all of Lochte’s “sentimental” clothes she had bought in other countries she had visited, a laptop, binoculars, memory sticks, a digital camera and a cooler box.
A good Samaritan, who asked not to be named, said her daughter noticed the three women sitting next to their car in tears.
“My daughter asked them what was wrong. They told her and she called me, so I brought them to the [Humewood] police station,” she said.
Berndmeyer has been in South Africa since November, working as a volunteer at a creche in Goodwood in Cape Town.
Hartmann and Lochte joined her there late last month while on their semester break.
They had all been in Aliwal North before making their way to Port Elizabeth.
They were meant to arrive at the Addo Elephant Park yesterday for a three-day break before driving back to Cape Town.
They are scheduled to leave South Africa later this month.
Asked if the incident had tarnished their view of South Africa, all three said no and that they still thought South Africa was “a beautiful country”.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said theft out of vehicles had become a “big problem” in Port Elizabeth and that victims should take their car for fingerprinting to assist police in their investigations.