Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cops 'refused' to help, so robbers went free

29 June 2010, 10:30

By Graeme Hosken
Crime Reporter

Four potential armed robbers are on the loose after a Pretoria security company was forced to release them when police allegedly refused to question or arrest them.

This is despite the four being caught with knives outside the luxury golfing Gardeners Ross Estate in Mnandi, south-west of Pretoria, moments after a perimeter fence alarm was activated on Sunday.

They were caught by IQ Security guards and found in possession of housebreaking equipment.

The estate has apparently been plagued by a string of burglaries in recent months.

Wierdabrug police station members apparently refused to take statements, question witnesses or arrest the suspects.

This has prompted a high-level investigation by law enforcers, and has left police red-faced, especially after assurances by the police chief, General Bheki Cele, that the World Cup and security around it would not affect day-to-day policing.

IQ Security managing director Phillip van Schalkwyk said: "The alarm was activated at 5.30pm. Our guards caught the men just outside the perimeter fence.

"After questioning the men and unable to get information, we contacted the police."

But police from the Wierdabrug police station said they could not help and would contact them the next morning. Only after repeated phone calls to the police station were officers dispatched to the estate - two hours later.

Expecting the suspects to be fingerprinted and questioned, the security guards were in disbelief when the officers allegedly told them it was not their "responsibility" to arrest them. Also, that they (the security guards) would have to house and feed them for the night.

The reason given: the security guards who had arrested the men had gone home because their shift had ended and the officers needed to take statements from them.

"I was in shock, especially when I heard we would have to keep them overnight at our office.

"I immediately contacted the police station, but the policeman I spoke to, who happened to be the officer who came out to the estate, refused to assist me.

"When I asked him why he had not fingerprinted the suspects or taken them in for questioning he said it was not their job.

"I thought he was joking, but when he insisted that it was not his job and that the onus was on me to detain them I asked to speak to his shift commander.

"When I offered to take the suspects to the police station, the captain told me I would be wasting my time as she would not accept the suspects. When I told her I would take them to either Brooklyn, Lyttelton or Pretoria Central police stations she said no one would help me.

"When I tried to ask her why, she passed the phone to another policeman who said his commander no longer wished to speak to me."

Unable to get assistance, Van Schalkwyk phoned his lawyer who said he would have to release the suspects as he (Van Schalkwyk) was breaking the law by detaining them as he had no legal mandate to do so.

Van Schalkwyk said he released the men five hours later and gave their weapons back to them. Wierdabrug police station spokesperson Captain Agnes Human said the allegations were viewed in a serious light and would be investigated immediately.

This article was originally published on page 4 of The Pretoria News on June 29, 2010

The Star

Comments by Sonny

This is not neglect of duty on the part of the SAPF.

Mr Van Schalkwyk obviously does not know his Criminal Procedure Act, regarding arrest, search and seizure of suspects and property.

The arresting security guards should not have left their posts without writing out their statements and waiting for the police to arrive at the scene.

Did Van Schalkwyk ever hear of the "chain of evidence?"

Well done SAPF.

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