Community unified in action following farm attack

SENTRUM – Three suspects are in Police custody following a farm attack on Thursday, September 16th, in the Sentrum district. Mr Louis Mayer, a commercial farmer of the farm Rooiboshbult, Sentrum, Thabazimbi District, as well as the farm manager mr Fritz Gouws, was robbed and detained the night at about 01:30. Four attackers were involved in the robbery and besides the goods which were stolen, there was also an attempt to steal the double cab vehicle. Three of the suspects already appeared in the Thabazimbi Magistrate Court. They were not asked to plea and the date of their next appearance was set on . . . . . . . . . . .

Members of the SAPS as well as the local farming community were on the scene within minutes to assist. After an intensive search, three of the attackers were arrested. The fourth suspect, who was also involved in the attack, was a former employee of Mayer and escaped. He, however, is well known to the SAPS.

The attackers gained access to the house by breaking a window. The stolen goods were then removed from the house and loaded onto a double cab vehicle they intended to steal. After the vehicle was loaded, they entered the bedroom where Mayer was still sleeping. They woke him, took his handgun, and forced him to open his vault where they took cash and more firearms. After this, he was tied up and locked in the room.

The attackers then went to the second house on the farm where Gouws slept. They yanked on the door to gain forced entry. Gouws woke up, took a rifle, and opened the door. Immediately after he opened the door, three shots were fired at him, all the shots missed him. He immediately returned fire, not injuring anyone of them after which they fled.

The SAPS Hoopdal was then called in for assistance. Members of the Sentrum Farmers Association were immediately notified of the attack by radio. After receiving the message, the Hoopdal Police members and the farmers responded by assembling on the farm.

The Hoopdal police was first on the scene and entered the farm. On the way to the house, the police members spotted a vehicle travelling towards them. At this stage they were not aware that the vehicle of Mayer had been stolen. Noticing the police van, the vehicle left the road and went into the bush where it stopped. The suspects abandoned the vehicle and disappeared in the bush.

The local farming community immediately staged the searching for the attackers. Soon afterwards footprints of two of the suspects where found at the electrified game fence. The footprints were lost where the suspects diverted back into the bush.

In search of the attackers, the local farmers’ trackers assisted by trackers from the SAPS as well as members of SAPS Hoopdal, Polokwane and Thabazimbi were deployed.

The next day, air support consisting of helicopters provided by the SAP Services, local farmers and businessmen, was continuously available. The search was hampered because the area they searched was covered with shrub and bush, which provided shelter as the helicopter approached the suspects. At the end of the day, it was clear that the attackers were four in total, two of them moving together.

In the course of the first day, with the help of the air support, the first attacker was arrested. At the end of day light, the trackers were a very short distance behind the fugitives. The follow-up action was then called off due to failing day light.

The fugitives were spotted the next morning by one of the local farmers and all the trackers moved to the area they have been seen. Shortly thereafter the fugitives were again spotted and the pursue started afresh. Assisted by helicopters, the two fugitives were caught at about 13:45.

The fourth attacker, a former employee of Mayer has a criminal record, and is wanted for a number of offences by the SAPS. An arrest can soon be expected.

The local farming community took note of the incredible support provided by the Hoopdal, Thabazimbi and Polokwane SAPS. It is again noted with gratitude, the skills that are still vested within the SAPS tracker unit. Without these skills, this exercise would not have been concluded successfully.

Apart from the SAPS helicopter, Lourens du Plessis, Gert Ehlers, Peter Breegen, Marius de Beer, and Bernard de Beer offered their helicopters and services while local food stores supplied refreshments to the 60-odd people involved in the operation. Most of the volunteers were local farmers and farmers from the adjacent farming communities. Their determination to make an arrest was evident.

The Sentrum Farmers Association area is regarded as a safe area where theft is limited to items of lesser value. Previous to this incident, the last attack in this area took place in December 2008.

Once again it was clear that the community and SAP Services can only achieve success if they support each other. Furthermore, the key to success is the cooperation between all parties and a mutual understanding for each others concerns.