School staff chase down armed beachfront robbers

Nearby builders join in on heroic team effort

David Jali and Marselle van der Mescht describe how they chased down and wrestled to the ground two robbers who robbed a woman outside a house in Summerstrand.
David Jali and Marselle van der Mescht describe how they chased down and wrestled to the ground two robbers who robbed a woman outside a house in Summerstrand.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Two robbers were chased down and wrestled to the ground after robbing a woman outside a house in Summerstrand this morning.

The chase ended up on the Port Elizabeth beachfront where two Cape Recife High School staff members nabbed one of the men who was armed with a dagger.  Nearby builders caught the other with a firearm.

The robbery took place at about 7.45am – shortly before start of school – directly outside Cape Recife High School in Admiralty Way.

The school's physiotherapy assistant David Jali, 46, witnessed the robbery as two men grabbed a woman’s handbag while she was walking on the corner of Tenby Road and Admiralty Way.

“I was helping to take children out of the kombi when I heard loud screaming. I initially thought it was a child, but when I looked, I saw a woman struggling with two men across the road and  I ran inside to get help,” he said.

Two robbers were chased down and wrestled to the ground after robbing a woman outside a house in Summerstrand.
Two robbers were chased down and wrestled to the ground after robbing a woman outside a house in Summerstrand.
Image: Google Streetview

While looking for help, Jali bumped into caretaker Marselle van der Mescht, 41, in the reception area.

“We jumped into the car and gave chase to try and find the men," Jali said. 

“We saw the men walking about 15m apart from each other a street away.

We stopped the car next to the one guy walking in front and he started running with a dagger in his hand. I jumped out of the car and wrapped my arm in my jacket,” Jali explained. “As I jumped out, he [Van der Mescht] gave chase in the car, blocking him.”

During the confrontation, the robber tried to stab Jali several times.

“Luckily, every time he lunged at me, I managed to duck out of his way and block him with my arm. I tried to grab him a few times, but he kept pulling away.”

Van der Mescht said the chase then continued towards the beachfront.

“I just carried on hooting to get attention and more people to help. They ran towards the beachfront with Jali chasing them and me in the car hooting and trying to block them,” he said.

In 11th Avenue, they passed a group of builders working on a house.

“The builders heard the hooting and commotion and I yelled out of the car window for them to help. By that stage, all the builders joined in on the pursuit. The two men ran across the road onto the beachfront and the builders managed to wrestle one of them to the ground, taking the gun out of his pants. The other robber continued on running away along the beach, but Jali was catching up," Van der Mescht recalled.

"The chase led them to the Pollok Beach car park [at surfing spot Pipe] where the robber turned again and tried to stab David [Jali]. I jumped out the car and picked up a rock to hit him on the head. As I grabbed the rock, he [the robber] turned towards me. At that second,  David grabbed him from behind and wrestled him to the ground.

"By this stage, more people had joined in the chase. As they both went to the ground, I jumped on the guy and held him down while other people joined in and we managed to get the dagger out of his hand,” Van der Mescht said.

The police and Atlas Security arrived on the scene shortly thereafter.

“We handed them over and went back to see if we could find the handbag,” Van der Mescht added. “In Tiran Road, someone saw the robbers throw the handbag and handed it over to the police.”

Police spokesman Captain Johan Rheeder said a case had been opened.

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