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Questions after suspects escape

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Questions after suspects escape

by Shahista Rohan-Toefy
14 May 2008
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Four of the five men accused of robbing First National Bank last month escaped from police custody at Athlone Court on Friday - after the police's Organised Crime Unit was warned of the impending event.

The five men appeared in the Athlone Magistrate's Court on Friday, 9 May. They were then taken back to a holding cell in Court F. According to Captain Andre Venter, spokesperson for the Athlone Police Station, Constable Mayekiso Stanley was on his way to court F to remove an inmate from the cell, unaware that it contained five high-profile prisoners: Brian Busani, Bekithemba Mtimkulu, Ceiphas Nyathi, Thabo Mnkandla and Zain Sebata. The four men, also wanted in connection with robberies in Gauteng, grabbed Stanley the moment the cell gate was open.

Venter says that Stanley was kicked, beaten and strangled while about 25 other inmates looked on. One of the men took Stanley's gun from his holster and, pointing it at him, pulled the trigger. Luckily, Stanley's ammunition had been in his pocket: no bullets were fired.

Venter says that Stanley screamed for help - help that came only after the men had found his keys and run off. The men entered the courtroom and waved Stanley' weapon at people before leaving the building.

Three hours later, an Athlone resident handed Stanley's keys to officers at the Athlone Police Station. He said that at around 12:00, he saw four men get into a white car in Dobson Road, opposite Nedbank. The car appeared to have been waiting for them. Shortly before they took off, the suspects discarded the keys.

Venter says that the Organised Crime Unit was told two weeks ago that the four men were planning an escape.

Organised Crime apparently arranged extra manpower in response, but on the day of the escape, that manpower was missing.

People's Post asked the following questions of Captain Elliot Sinyangana, provincial spokesperson for SAPS West Metropole:

* Was the investigating officer - who was apparently at Pollsmoor Prison at the time of the escape - not meant to be at the court at the time?

* Organised Crime provided a lot of manpower at the court, but failed to do so on the day of the escape: why?

* Why was Constable Mayekiso Stanley not warned about the high-profile suspects in the cell?

* Why were the prisoners not taken back to Pollsmoor Prison after their appearance in court?

* How did the escapees arrange a get-away driver, especially seeing that Organised Crime had been warned of the planned escape?

Sinyangana's response: "Currently, there is an investigation under way. However, this office is not going to divulge any further information".

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