Durban – A hidden cellphone allowed for a rapid alert to security companies and police after a home invasion and vehicle robbery in Mtunzini last Friday, and a roadblock was quickly set up on the N2 at Umdloti to catch the fleeing suspects.
But the panicked suspects in a stolen vehicle started shooting at police and security company officers, creating havoc among motorists near the Umdloti off-ramp.
One of the suspects was shot dead while fleeing.
Garnet Groom and his wife, Megan, were at their home in Mtunzini, along with their two granddaughters and baby great-granddaughter, when five men stormed in. This week, Groom said the gang forced their way into his home at about 11am. He was in the lounge with his granddaughters and the baby.
“It was Friday morning and we were relaxed. My wife had been working in the office, whose windows face towards the gate, and she spotted the men forcing the gate open.
“I heard her shouting ‘don’t let them in’ but then they were in the house,” he said.
The men, some of whom were armed with firearms, tied up the family and their domestic employee and demanded to know where the safe was. Groom told them they did not have a safe and did not keep firearms or cash in the house.
“They had a look around to make sure we were telling them the truth. They pulled stuff out of boxes and made one hell of a mess,” he said.
“One of the men was ripping the television off the wall. I told him he didn’t have to do that and when I moved to help him, he clouted me in the left ear. I felt like I had been hit with a brick.”
The robbers forced the family and their employee into a bedroom. While the men seized the family’s cellphones after they were forced to lie on the floor, they did not find the employee’s phone as they searched her while she was on the floor; it remained hidden in her pocket.
Groom said the robbers fled in the family’s Toyota Rav 4 and a getaway vehicle.
“We waited and then used the cellphone which they hadn’t found to contact our security company.
“They put the alert out both north and south. Then we heard they (robbers) had been spotted on the N2 freeway and a roadblock was being set up near King Shaka airport.”
Security companies at the scene said there were an estimated eight suspects in the gang, with five entering the house to commit the armed robbery and another three waiting outside in their getaway vehicle.
The stolen vehicle was spotted by security and police units between the airport and the Umdloti off-ramp when the suspects opened fire on officers, who retaliated.
As a shoot-out erupted, the suspects lost control of the stolen vehicle and crashed into a tree in the centre median. As the still-firing suspects fled across the northbound carriageway, one was shot dead while a second escaped into the bush.
One of the officers at the scene was grazed by a bullet.
Police immediately launched a search for the suspect on the run, but yesterday KZN SAPS Media had not responded to a query about whether the second suspect had been caught.
The crash and shooting created havoc during rush hour on Friday along the N2 freeway, with a backlog of northbound traffic quickly building up between the KwaMashu and Umdloti off-ramps.