Walmer Park iStore targeted by gang

Police investigate in the iStore in Walmer Park after the robbery.
Police investigate in the iStore in Walmer Park after the robbery.
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

A gang of six men robbed the iStore in the Walmer Park Shopping Centre at midday on Wednesday.

According to shoppers, the gang walked out of the centre pushing a trolley covered with a blanket shortly after the robbery.

Police spokesperson Captain Johan Rheeder said three men had initially entered the store, before ushering staff into the back office.

“Three men walked in and showed staff members a firearm before ushering three of them into the back office.

“At the time, two of the staff were already in the back office,” Rheeder said.

“The men closed the door and demanded that the manager open the safe.

“While in the office, the suspects told the five staff members to face the wall.

“They stole money and stock.”

Before leaving, the robbers opened the back door and let the staff out.

“Only once the men were out of the shop was the panic button pressed and police alerted,” Rheeder said.

A shopper, who saw the men leaving the shop, said she had noticed three other men standing around the shop.

“Some of them came out of the shop looking very suspicious.

“That is what caught my eye,” she said.

One was pushing the trolley covered with a blanket and he was surrounded by the others.

“There were about six of them and they walked to the exit and left,” she said.

The robbers fled in two getaway cars.

Shortly after the robbery, police cordoned off the store while notices were placed on the glass doors and windows stating that the shop was closed for the day.

Walmer Park centre manager Leonie Scheepers said they had established, after viewing the centre’s CCTV footage, that two Toyota Corollas – one white and one silver – entered the car park from the 14th Avenue entrance at about 11.55am.

“At various intervals, seven suspects exited the vehicles which then parked in the car park, the drivers remaining in the vehicles. The suspects then entered the centre and the iStore randomly over a period of approximately 15 minutes,” she said.

“Some suspects took the staff and five customers of the iStore into the back-office area whilst some remained in the store posing as customers. The staff were ordered at gunpoint to open the vault, where merchandise was packed into large canvas bags.”

Scheepers said two armed suspects stripped two centre security guards of their radio ear pieces and forced them into the store.

“The suspects then left the store wheeling the stolen goods out of the centre in two shopping trolleys. They then loaded the stolen goods and climbed into the two getaway vehicles which had now parked in the roadway in front of the entrance,” she said.

“The two vehicles then exited the property at approximately 12.20pm. Once the suspects had left the store, panic buttons were activated at 12.17pm by both centre security and iStore staff.”

Armed response guards and police were on the scene by 12.21pm.

“The store entrance doors remained open throughout with customers entering and exiting the store and passing by the store oblivious to the fact that robbery was taking place,” Scheepers said.

“This brazen heist took place in a very calm and well-orchestrated manner.”

Scheepers said they had managed to establish, using their upgraded CCTV and LPR system, that one of the vehicles had a false number plate while the other number plate did not match the vehicle description.

She said the iStore planned on re-opening on Thursday.

“We need to assure the public that the safety of the centre, tenants and customers is taken very seriously and training with centre security personnel and contractors is ongoing.”

In June, nine thieves broke into the Walmer Park Shopping Centre and hit two stores in less than two minutes.

The gang were armed with a crowbar, sledge-hammer and firearms.

The thugs broke into the centre through a fire escape before targeting Francarlo Jewellers and the iStore shortly after 4am.

Since then, five suspects have been arrested and lots of the jewellery recovered.

In October, about R2m in Apple cellphones and gadgets were stolen from the store during a burglary.