Robbers leave Spur with no cash, just clergymen’s bags filled with paper
A gang that robbed a small group of church leaders at gunpoint during a breakfast meeting at a Port Elizabeth Spur got it horribly wrong yesterday when they snatched what they thought were bags full of cash.
While the bags were filled with paper, it was not the kind the robbers had been hoping for.
Instead of money, all the hapless bunch got were a bunch of documents and a solitary cellphone.
The daring holdup inside the Silver Cloud Spur in the Westway Centre in Newton Park shortly after 1pm, saw the owner, a security guard and even a car guard trying to prevent the four robbers from escaping – but they threatened to shoot anyone in their way.
The clergymen are convinced that they were specifically targeted after a group of colleagues was robbed of a large sum of money at the restaurant earlier this year.
According to police, the robbers, under the guise of customers, entered the Spur and took a seat near to where the church leaders were having their meeting.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that first one came inside and sat down at a table near the churchmen and asked for a glass of water. Then, seconds later, three others joined him.
“As the waiter left the table, three of the suspects got up and approached the group [of churchmen],” Naidu said.
The Rev Oscar George, from Grahamstown, and four other clergymen and colleagues from the United Ethiopian Church of Africa in Nelson Mandela Bay, said they had just finished their breakfast when the unnerving incident occurred.
“We were sitting there having our monthly meeting, like we do every month,” he said.
“We had finished breakfast and were discussing issues when all of a sudden three guys came up to our table out of nowhere. “One stood in front of us and cocked a gun, telling us to stay calm and quiet.
“All he said was ‘give me the money, give me the money’.
“While he was standing in front of us, two other men went behind us and grabbed two of our bags.
“Before we could even say anything, they were running out.” George, who is also the church spokesman, said the robbery happened so quickly he did not have time to think clearly or react.
“It caught us by surprise and was over in the blink of an eye,” he said.
Outside the restaurant, car guard Grant Smith, 53, said he had run to the building after hearing panicked screams.
“I heard a commotion and saw people running,” Smith said.
“The manager was outside with me and had just asked me to keep an eye on the group inside as they appeared suspicious. Within seconds of him telling me that, everyone just started running outside.”
Smith said he and an on-site security guard ran towards the entrance.
“We got to the [Spur] doors and they were closed with the men [trapped] inside still.
“I suspect the staff closed the doors but in the heat of the moment, no one knew what was happening yet.
“The doors then flew open and the bigger of the guys [robbers] literally ran right over me. The other three were right behind him.
“I saw the gun but I gave chase. As I was gaining on them, they were swearing at me. One guy turned around and pointed the gun at me, saying, ‘ek sal vir jou skiet’ (I will shoot you).”
The robbers fled out the Westway Centre entrance into Frank Road and jumped into a car parked nearby.
“You don’t think straight during the chaos,” Smith said.
“It was only afterwards that I realised I could have been killed.”
Spur franchise owner Keith Fourie also intervened during the robbery.
“I was in my office when I looked at the [CCTV] cameras and noticed something was not right inside [the restaurant],” he said.
“I ran out of my office and confronted them while they were running out [of the Spur]. The one pointed a gun and told me to move out of the way or he would shoot me.”
Asked what was inside the bags, George said they contained only documents and one cellphone.
“A group of colleagues was robbed [inside the same restaurant] earlier this year, when the robbers managed to get away with a lot of money,” he said.
“I suspect that this is the same group that thought we would have money on us as well.”