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Nompilo Kunene
Senior online journalist
2 minute read
28 Apr 2021
19:33

Eyewitness says seeing escaping prisoners was like watching a bioscope movie

Nompilo Kunene

An eyewitness to the escape said on Wednesday that the whole thing was just like scenes from an action movie.

An eyewitness to the escape said on Wednesday that the whole thing was just like scenes from an action movie.

Eighteen prisoners were still on the run by Wednesday night, following a brazen attack by armed gunmen on a police truck transporting prisoners to court.

Five men, armed with AK47 assault rifles, forced the SAPS vehicle carrying prisoners from Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison to the Magistrate’s Court, off the road. 

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she was standing near the Fort Napier Psychiatric Hospital gate when the vehicle transporting prisoners was hijacked on Wednesday morning.

She said she heard a loud bang which she thinks was the van crashing. When she walked towards the road to enquire, she saw two men running up the road, away from the van.

She later learnt that the two men, who were wearing civilian clothes, were the drivers of the van. She said one of them was limping.

“They ran into the property opposite Fort Napier and asked for help. I didn’t hear any gunshots, just a loud bang.”

She said once the drivers were out of sight, the back doors of the van opened, and the prisoners started jumping out and made a run for it.

“It was like a cows’ kraal had just been opened. The prisoners were jumping out and running up the road. I just stood on the side of the road and watched in disbelief as they ran past me. It was like a bioscope movie,” she said.

The woman said the prisoners were also all dressed in their civilian clothes, and she said not all of them were wearing masks. She said they ran up the road and towards the pedestrian bridge, which runs above the train line, into town.

“Some of the prisoners got out of the van and just stood next to it. The ones who were running away were shouting back at the others as they ran trying to convince them to also run away.”

The woman said she did see a white double cab bakkie at the scene but did not see anyone carrying guns or any prisoners getting into the bakkie.

Ross Strachan, the ward councillor in the area, said a Napierville woman got caught up between the two vehicles at the time of conflict. He said the woman was not injured but she was still in shock.

Strachan yesterday urged residents in the Napierville area to be vigilant and to keep safe as police continue to comb the area for missing prisoners.