‘Blue-light’ robberies: North America, Netherlands tourists among victims in Mpumalanga

Three robberies in which victims were kidnapped and robbed were reported in the province, with foreign nationals being targeted twice.

The Mpumalanga police have confirmed that in just two days, there have been three incidents of ‘blue-light’ robberies in the province.

One was in Mbombela, in which five people, including four North American citizens, were victims, one was in Hazyview, where a husband and wife from the Netherlands were the victims, and one was in Standerton.

In all three incidents, the victims were robbed, kidnapped and held hostage for several hours while the suspects drove around, withdrawing money with the victims’ bank cards at various ATMs.

Netherlands couple targeted in most recent incident

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Donald Mdhluli said it was about 20:30 on Monday when a man and his wife from the Netherlands, driving in a silver-grey Hyundai, were blocked by a white double-cab bakkie in Albatross Street, Hazyview, with flashing blue lights.

He said a man impersonating a police officer got out of the car and ordered the couple to open the boot.

Mdhluli said the suspect searched the boot, and then two more suspects alighted from the double-cab. They ordered the man to sit in the middle of the back seat, and they flanked him. The third suspect got in front and drove off with his accomplices and the couple.

Mdhluli said that during the drive, the suspects demanded the bank cards and Pins from the victims and proceeded to stop at various ATMs where cash was withdrawn. He said the victims’ jewellery and their cellphones were also stolen.

He explained that the suspects gave the victims their car back afterwards, and they drove to their guest house. Mdhluli added that some of these suspects had guns.

North American visitors among 5 held hostage

In the Mbombela incident, which took place on Saturday night, five people were robbed at gunpoint, kidnapped and held hostage for about four hours.

One of the victims, who is a foreign citizen but lives in Mbombela, spoke to Lowvelder on the condition of anonymity, for safety reasons.

She said she was with her son and two grandchildren, who were visiting her from their home in North America, and another person, who is a South African, when the incident occurred.

They were stopped by a Ford Ranger with flashing blue lights on Samora Machel Drive near the Mpumalanga High Court at about 20:20.
They were also ordered to give their bank cards and Pins and driven to various ATMs before being dropped in Masoyi with their rented vehicle. The foreign nationals opened a case at the Nelspruit Police Station.

Meanwhile, national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said that on Monday night, in Standerton, four friends were travelling between Standerton and Trichardt when they were stopped by a group of men driving a white Volkswagen Polo fitted with blue lights.

The four men were kidnapped and kept captive while the suspects withdrew large sums of money from their bank accounts,” said Mathe.
“The matter was reported to the SAPS and the anti-kidnapping task team operationalised information and traced the friends within 48 hours to a house in Vosloorus in Gauteng. A manhunt is under way to apprehend those behind this crime,” she said.

More than 300 arrests

Mathe said that in the last two years, the police have arrested more than 300 suspects linked to kidnappings where ransom demands were made or victims were made to withdraw large sums of money from their accounts.

“The SAPS has since launched a manhunt for a group of three to four suspects who have been involved in similar incidents where motorists were stopped by a group of men driving in a Ford Ranger bakkie or a white Polo fitted with blue lights. Members of the public are urged to be extra vigilant in an event where they suspect that they are being stopped by criminals posing as fake police officers.”

Guidelines for citizens:

  • Do not stop if you suspect that you might be stopped by bogus police officers.
  • Drive to the nearest police station, shopping complex or any other busy area when you are stopped by an unmarked vehicle fitted with blue lights.
  • Do not stop at a deserted spot or area to talk on your phone or even relieve yourself.
  • If someone tries to force you off the road, don’t panic. Constantly hoot to draw attention.

“You have the right to request a police officer who is not in uniform and in an unmarked vehicle to identify themselves by producing their SAPS appointment card that would have their rank, date of service and a picture of them on it,” said Mathe.

Anyone with information that may assist in apprehending the suspects should call the Crime Stop number on 08600 10111 or send information via the MySAPS app. All received information will be treated as confidential and callers may opt to remain anonymous.

Read original story on www.citizen.co.za

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