Robber dies in bloody cash-heist shootout

Mayhem at PE intersection also leaves cop, truck driver wounded

Officers gather evidence from the bullet-ridden windscreen of a bakkie caught in the crossfire
Officers gather evidence from the bullet-ridden windscreen of a bakkie caught in the crossfire
Image: Werner Hills

A major intersection in Port Elizabeth erupted into a deadly battleground yesterday when at least three armed robbers opened fire on police in a skirmish that left one man dead and two others, including a policeman, wounded.

The drama, which started when two men robbed a Fidelity Security guard of cash boxes at gunpoint at a Sasol filling station in Linton Grange at 11.10am, ended at the Chase Drive and Ditchling Street intersection on the borders of Young Park and Algoa Park just before midday.

Police cordoned off a massive area, including the entire four-way intersection and sections of the roads, extending up Chase Road as far as Stanford Road, while a police helicopter circled overhead for more than an hour searching for suspects.

At the same time, scores of police officers searched the surrounding bush and a nearby cemetery.

The flow of traffic was severely affected.

While one suspect was fatally shot and another arrested in the immediate vicinity of the intersection, the third suspect involved in the gunfight managed to escape and was still at large last night.

Police are also searching for a further three suspects.

A policeman from Algoa Park was shot in the knee, while a truck driver caught in the crossfire was also wounded.

Police seized two handguns at the scene.

In CCTV footage seen by The Herald, one of the suspects is shown entering the convenience store at the filling station, situated off Cape Road, at exactly the same time as the security guard leaves the store with two cash boxes containing a significant amount of money.

The suspect, who is wearing a peaked cap and is joined in the store by another man, then points a firearm at the armed security guard, who is forced to hand over the cash boxes.

The robbers also made off with the security guard’s firearm.

The employees in the store, along with one of the owners, were ordered to lie down by the suspects, who focused solely on the cash boxes during the hold-up.

The robbers then fled past the unsuspecting petrol attendants on the forecourt, joining their fellow gang members in a white Toyota Quantum which had been waiting close by.

Following an alert put out over the police radio, a high-speed chase ensued when the vehicle was spotted in Beettlestone Road in Gelvandale. The suspects started firing at the police in pursuit.

The Quantum then stopped at the corner of Ditchling and Chase roads and three of the suspects got out and continued shooting.

The vehicle immediately sped off with the three other suspects.

The owners of the filling station said later that they had arranged earlier yesterday with their cashin-transit service (Fidelity) to have the money collected two hours earlier than usual, following the public holiday.
They said “someone” must have known that the cash collection arrangements had been changed.

Tertius and Stefanie Louw said their staff had handled the robbery well.

“I think the adrenaline just kicked in and we just did what they asked,” Stefanie said.

“I am actually OK. It was clear they were only focused on the cash boxes.

“The whole thing was very quick and we are just pleased that no one was injured.”

The footage shows her calmly kneeling behind a counter with another staff member during the ordeal.

Tertius, who was not in the store at the time, said he and his wife had been in the filling station industry for the past 18 years and had never been robbed before.

They said they believed that the man who was fatally shot in Young Park was the one who had held up the security guard.

A witness to the Ditchling intersection shooting, Young Park mechanic Pieter Jansen van Rensburg, said: “I saw all of it. I was not scared, but there was a lot of shooting.”

Demetrios Argyrou, of Algoa Plant Hire, said one of the company’s employees, whom he did not identify, had been driving a truck in the vicinity of the Ditchling intersection when the shooting broke out and was shot in the buttocks.

“He is in a stable condition,” Argyrou said.

Port Elizabeth police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the Quantum getaway vehicle had been spotted by a member from the K9 dog unit.

“As the [police] member was driving on the Malabar road, the Quantum minibus passed him and he decided to turn around and follow the minibus.

“When the driver of the minibus noticed the police vehicle behind them, he speeded up.

“A high-speed chase ensued and the suspects in the vehicle started to fire at the police vehicle.

“The vehicle eventually stopped close to Algoa Park and three suspects jumped out.

“More police arrived and they gave chase.

“The suspects continued shooting and one suspect was shot dead. Another one was arrested.

“One policeman is in hospital with a gunshot wound and an innocent driver was also wounded.”