Greenacers robbers possibly linked to other heists in province
All seven suspects have since been arrested by PE police
All the gunmen involved with the Greenacres Shopping Centre Cell-C heist on Wednesday have been arrested and have been possibly linked to other mall robberies.
Five men were arrested following the dramatic armed robbery which turned into a shootout and car chase shortly after the heist.
The shooting occurred just outside the Shoprite Mall entrance shortly after midday and then spilt over into the residential area of Adcockvale Extension and Newton Park.
The chase led to five robbers in total being nabbed, some of whom hid in the yards of various houses in an attempt to evade arrest.
Inside the getaway vehicle, a Toyota Etios, police found the 35 stolen cellphones as well as a signal jamming machine, used to interfere with cellphone signals and prevent people from alerting the police during the robbery.
By Thursday, police confirmed that all seven robbers had been arrested.
The remaining two suspects were arrested near the mall after the heist but detectives only established that they had been caught hours after the robbery.
Police confirmed that the men, who are currently being profiled, were under investigation for involvement with other mall robberies in the Bay, and even across province.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed that they were investigating if the men were wanted for other heists, possibly as far away as East London.
“Detectives have been contacted by various police stations across the province who think that these men could be linked to armed robberies in these areas as well.”
Two weeks ago, two of East London’s biggest malls – Vincent Park and Hemingways – were hit by a gang of about seven gunmen.A Telkom mobile store in Vincent Park was robbed, and an Incredible Connections store at Hemingways mall. Naidu said leads were being followed to ascertain if the same gang was involved.
“We are looking into whether this is the same gang linked to the robberies in the East London area recently,” she said.
In total four firearms were recovered from the gunmen following their arrest.
“Of these firearms, three had their serial numbers filed off and the one was stolen in Rustenburg (in the North West Province) in 2009 during a house robbery. All the firearms are being processed by out ballistics lab,” Naidu added.
Naidu said police had determined that the vehicle registration plates were false.
Asked about links to the other three shopping centre robberies in the Bay over the last two months, Naidu said this was also being looked into as part of the probe.
In June five robbers, using the same entrance at the Greenacres Shopping Centre, made off with bags of jewellery worth more than R4m from Creative Jewellers.
A week earlier, six men robbed the Samsung Teletek electronics store in the centre of cellphones, watches and money. They fired one shot as they fled.
And last week, the iStore in Walmer Park was robbed by seven men.Mount Road Cluster Commander Major General Thembikile Patekile said the case had been taken over by the Trio Task Team, which consists of several seasoned detectives from various police stations who report directly to him.
Patekile, who went to the shopping centre after the heist, said they were working around the clock to ascertain if the men were responsible for the other robberies.
“We will not share space with criminals and they must be removed from society so that the people of Port Elizabeth and the province can move freely without any fear. We will continue to stamp the authority of the state in our efforts to prevent, combat and investigate crime,” he said.
“Despite being shot at, our members were relentless and ensured that these suspects were apprehended.”
The suspects, aged between 25 and 35 years of age, are due to appear in the Port Elizabeth magistrate’s court on Friday where they will be charged with a string of crimes including armed robbery, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, among other charges.