2007-02-17 : Community reaction beats crime

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2007-02-17 : Community reaction beats crime

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-02-27 09:50


Community reaction beats crime

February 17 2007 at 11:57AM

By Sholain Govender and Barry Bateman

Speedy reaction by Erasmia police and community members to a plot attack in Rhenosterspruit has given residents renewed hope for their fight against crime.

A single SMS alert set off a chain reaction early Friday morning, leaving one suspect dead. This was after about 30 community members launched a manhunt for armed suspects when Jurgen Loosen, 62, was shot by would-be robbers on his Hills and Dales property in the nature conservancy.

Loosen has vowed to fight crime after he was shot in the thigh at the entrance of his farm in the nature conservancy at about 7am when a gang ambushed him at one of three security gates leading to his plot.

"I always open the gates for my wife to go to work," said Loosen, back at home after being seen to at the Olivedale Clinic in Johannesburg.

"I realised that the combination lock was open and headed back to the house," he said.

Loosen was shot after spotting three gunmen hiding in the long grass near the plot's second gate.

The grandfather of two was spurred on by anger at the attack and immediately took out his revolver and returned fire in an attempt to defend himself.

"I emptied my chamber shooting at them," said the German-born man, who has lived in South Africa for the past 25 years. "These are not criminals, these are terrorists.

"I will fight back. I will not leave this country because of them."

He urged more South Africans to come forward with their stories of crime so that the government would believe them that crime was out of control.

Loosen rushed back to the main house where his two hysterical grandchildren, aged seven and nine, were and activated the emergency SMS system in which more than 20 surrounding neighbours were alerted of the incident.

He then called his wife Vijay, who returned home.

"We have an SMS alert system, which means that neighbours were notified of the incident and they immediately rushed to our assistance," said Vijay Loosen.

"It was fantastic. This is a success story for us because the community was able to come together so quickly to help one another."

Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy chairperson Helen Duigan said the SMS alert system had been set up at a cost of R35 a month for residents to use in cases of emergencies like the attack on Friday and veld fires. "When we got the message my husband immediately went out to help," Duigan said.

Duigan and the Loosens also praised the Erasmia police for their speedy response.

"Erasmia police have been outstanding and because people in our area look after each other, in a matter of minutes everyone was here," Vijay Loosen said.

Police and residents launched a manhunt in the area, with the help of a police BK 177 helicopter joined by two military Augusta helicopters.

Alistair Armstrong, who co-ordinated the community search party, said he heard a single shot but at first thought nothing of it.

He then received an SMS which read: "Hills and Dales report: Attack: At (lodge) by three black men wearing blue overalls, Loosens have been shot, need back-up."

Armstrong said he immediately went to Loosen's assistance.

First on the scene, he and Loosen staged an initial search in bushes in the area.

"After we found nothing, Jurgen pointed out to me that he had been shot," said Armstrong.

About 2km from the Loosen property lay the body of the suspect, who had been shot by another resident.

"He (the suspect) had a balaclava and rope with him," said Gareth Muller.

Shortly after hearing a single gunshot, Muller said, he received the SMS informing him of the incident.

"I saw two men running near the back end of my farm. When I went to lock the house and gates I heard a series of shots being fired."

He said another resident was in the field when he went closer to investigate and the wounded suspect was crying and holding his hands on an area under his arm.

" … we did not go near him in case he was armed," he said.

Muller said the suspect was handcuffed shortly after police arrived, but died later.

"The police were unbelievable, they did an excellent job and responded quickly," he said.

Another community search party member, Jake Parsons, who wore a bullet-proof vest and was armed with a revolver, said he was shot at his plot two weeks ago.

He said after arriving home at about midnight, his mother said she had heard glass breaking.

When Parsons went outside to investigate, a man stuck his head out of a broken window, which led to a section of the house.

"He started shooting at me from inside the house," said Parsons. "I returned fire until I ran out of bullets.

"When I ran back to the house to get a shotgun, he kept shooting at me, but missed," he said.

The suspects escaped with a computer.

Netcare 911 paramedics transported the injured Loosen to hospital. He was discharged later in the day after receiving treatment.

Police spokesperson Captain Lucas Sithole confirmed the incident and said police recovered a firearm on the dead suspect.

He said they were investigating a case of attempted murder and no suspects had been arrested following the incident.

o This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on February 17, 2007
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