2009-08-25: Cops fudge distress call

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2009-08-25: Cops fudge distress call

Postby GOSA » Mon, 2009-09-07 07:02

Cops fudge distress call

August 25 2009 at 06:15AM

By Hannes Myburgh

A 19-year-old lay hidden under a blanket and sent a desperate SMS to a
friend: "Call cops. Emergency please... They're robbing us at home".

Her friend didn't recognise who the text had come from, but called the
police's emergency 10111 number and passed on the teenager's phone

But the operator took down the wrong number and failed to reach Fahima

This was just the start of a series of bungles that seem to have aided
the escape of five armed men in Mayfair West, Joburg.

Now the police are investigating how operators at the emergency call
centre were unable to take down a number or address correctly, or
dispatch a team to the scene of the robbery.

On Monday, Fahima was asleep on the couch of her parents' home when four
men stormed into the house, gathered the 14 occupants into one room and
began ransacking the house in search of money and other items.

A fifth man waited in a getaway car outside.

Riaz Ali, Fahima's father, was talking to a plumber in the kitchen
around 9.30am when he heard strange voices. Then a man held a gun to his

He was ordered to assemble all the people in the house in the main

There Ali was held with his wife, three children - including a pregnant
daughter - their spouses and three grandchildren while the men set about
systematically searching for valuables.

They didn't see Fahima asleep on the couch.

As the men conducted their search, one assaulted her mother Reyana. It
was the sound of the assault and the demand for money that awakened

She hid under a blanket, put her cellphone on silent and sent an SMS to
a family friend to phone 10111.

Ten minutes after she had sent the message, the gang made their getaway
in an unmarked Mercedes C-Class Kompressor, taking with them R15 000 in
cash, jewellery valued at R30 000 and the pregnant daughter's hospital
labour bag.

Ali followed the car and tried to contact 10111. His call was dropped
shortly after being answered.

His second call was answered and he gave the operator his address, the
street names of the closest corners to his home and the suburb name.

"I had to spell it to her two or three times," he said.

Ali returned home when he lost the robbers in a busy street heading
towards Langlaagte.

On the way he flagged down a Brixton police van, which followed him to
his house.

Another police van arrived around 10.15am.

"The officers said they had been looking for Proserper Street in
Brixton," said Ali.

There is no street with that name.

The Alis live in Proserpine Street, Mayfair West.

"The operator gave them the wrong address," Ali said.

A Joburg metro police van arrived around 10.30am, claiming to have
received a callout too, and also having been given the wrong address.

"We live less than five minutes from Brixton police station. If they had
responded earlier and had the correct address, they might have caught
the criminals," Ali said.

Police spokesman Superintendent Eugene Opperman said the allegations
would be investigated.

o This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star
on August 25, 2009
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