The 18 suspected robbers killed during a shoot-out with police at a house in Makhado on Friday are believed to have been members of a syndicate involved in a number of cash-in-transit heists in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
National police commissioner Gen Fannie Masemola revealed this during his visit to the crime scene in Limpopo on Friday afternoon.
He said various police units had for several days been observing a group of suspects who were allegedly planning a CIT heist before pouncing on a house in Makhado.
“This is a house where they were doing all the planning. Police members approached the house with a view to arrest them. They shot at the police and we retaliated. The shooting lasted 90 minutes and 18 of them were shot dead,” Masemola said.
Two women were among the 18 killed.
The suspects are from Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. One of the police officers was seriously injured and rushed to hospital.
“They brought a lot of firearms. There were also explosives that were ready to be used,” Masemola said.
Police also visited a second address in Thohoyandou where four suspects were arrested. Ten vehicles including several high-powered performance vehicles and seven automatic rifles were seized.
“The plan was that whatever they have done, when they have taken cash they will go to the second safe house in Thohoyandou and there they transport the money to other provinces. Unfortunately they were going to use an ambulance to transport the money.”
Masemola said an ambulance with red lights was usually given a right of way.
“We believe this syndicate has been involved in a number of CITs in this province, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.”
Head of the Hawks Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya said this was a culmination of a major investigation that began as early as January.
“Limpopo and Mpumalanga joined forces in addressing the syndicate that was identified based on several follow-ups that were made by the team. So indeed, we do believe we have the suspects that we have been following.
“Further investigations will continue to ascertain other crimes that the group may have perpetrated,” Lebeya said.