Shots rang as a relaxing weekly cycle to Bapsfontein turned to tragedy.
Heinrich Hamm (58), an Afrikaans teacher and head of department at Hoërskool Birchleigh, was shot and killed on November 18, by a group of four men travelling in a Toyota Avanza.
Riding with his brother-in-law, Charles Botha and nephew Carlo (18), the trio were riding between the mielie fields, near the R25, a route Hamm has been riding for 25 years and that is popular amongst the cycling community.
According to Hamm’s sister, Madelein, the ride had become a family tradition, with the Rynfield residents setting out just before 06:00.
“Charles was at the front with Carlo riding between him and Heinrich,” she said.
“Without warning, shots were fired at Carlo, causing him to fall. As he hit the ground, one of the four suspects had a gun pointed at his head, with others shouting, ‘shoot him’.”
She said Hamm reacted swiftly, distracting the armed assailant.
The matriculant doesn’t recall what transpired in those fateful seconds but remembers the shooter turning his attention to his uncle and firing a shot.
“Charles immediately shouted at Carlo, telling him to run,” she said.
Running about 1.5km, the teen came across fellow cyclists, begging them for help.
“They recognised him and immediately rushed to the scene while others headed to the road to flank down passing motorists. Calls were made for medical assistance,” said Botha.
“On their way back to the scene, Carlo was told his dad is safe, but Heinrich had sustained a gunshot.”
He was unconscious at the time but was later declared dead on the scene.
“My brother was incredibly active and had completed numerous Comrades and Two Oceans marathons,” she said, pausing as she recalled his many accolades.
“Above all, he loved nature, along with his wife, Monique, and dog, Djembe. They would often embark on hiking trails.
“Charles says as they cleared a hill shortly before the incident, they stopped to watch the sun’s rays break through the clouds. It was raining in the distance.
“Looking at the magnificent sight, Heinrich told them a photo could never capture the true beauty of such a sight. It was the last thing he said before his death.”
District communications officer Captain Neldah Sekgobela confirmed the incident, saying responding EMPD officers arrested three suspects.
“Responding to calls for assistance, EMPD officers spotted the Toyota Avanza about 3km from the crime scene and gave chase,” said EMPD spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Kelebogile Thepa.
“The fourth suspect evaded arrest. However, a manhunt has been launched. It is believed he fled the scene with the firearm.”
She said it is alleged that the suspects were travelling with another unidentified vehicle.
“The Avanza is allegedly used to transport stolen bicycles,” said Thepa.
“Two bicycles were recovered from the vehicle, and neither belonged to the victims. It is suspected that the suspects may be involved in other cases of armed robbery, targeting cyclists.”
She said that this popular cycling route was identified as a hotspot and that the EMPD, SAPS and local security companies will ramp up patrols to try and prevent further robberies.
“We sympathise with the family during this time of grieving and extend our heartfelt condolences,” said Thepa.
The suspects were remanded in custody at the Olifantsfontein Police Station on charges of murder.
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