UPDATE: Speedy response by security forces foils airport robbery

The swift response by the South African Police Service, metro police and airport security resulted in the foiling of an armed robbery at the cargo terminal of OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday morning.

According to Brig Vishnu Naidoo, police spokesperson, a group of about eight suspects, some wearing security company reflector jackets, entered the cargo terminal in two cars at around 10am.

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“Some suspects took control of the main gate while the others proceeded to a Swissport warehouse and stole a truck carrying cellphones.

“Police were alerted through mechanisms which form part of the joint reactive strategies being employed to combat robberies at the airport. The suspects fled in different directions, two on foot across the R21 highway,” Naidoo said.

One suspect was shot dead in a shootout with a Gauteng K9 member and a second was arrested. Two firearms, including a pistol and revolver, were recovered from these suspects.

Naidoo said another part of the group fled in the hijacked truck which was later abandoned on the R24 before the suspects fled on foot.

Another fled in a sedan which they hijacked from one of the airport security personnel. This vehicle was later recovered in Alexandra but the suspects managed to get away.

“Police will continue with vigorous discussions with the management of the warehouse security on the aspect of the protection of the security clothing and equipment. The easy accessibility or the lack of protection thereof is exacerbating the efforts by police to prevent these robberies from taking place,” Naidoo added.

“Inside involvement in this robbery cannot be ruled out at this stage and this too is what is possibly compounding the efforts of police to be effectively proactive.”

This case is being investigated by the recently established multi-disciplinary team comprising of, among others, specialised investigators, crime intelligence and forensic experts. The two suspects, both the dead and arrested one, as well as the recovered firearms will be profiled to determine if they were involved in other similar crimes.

Naidoo said police also found scanner devices that control the gate in the possession of the dead suspect and another in the recovered vehicle.

“The joint efforts by the security forces must be applauded and should also serve as a reminder to deter potential criminals on what they are likely to be confronted with should any attempts be made to commit such crimes at the airport. Our strategies will be revised and improved on a continuous basis to stay a step ahead of these criminals.”

Leigh Gunkel-Keuler, spokesperson for OR Tambo International Airport, says information airport management has at this stage is that a group of armed men held up and overpowered security guards employed by Checkport at the Swissport warehouse at the cargo precinct.

The robbery took place on the public access land side of the cargo precinct and the robbers did not gain access to the air side of the airport.

“It is alleged that the robbers made off in a hijacked cargo truck. Members of the South African Police Services and Reshebile Protection Services responded immediately. Reshebile is contracted to provide security services to the airport,” Gunkel-Keuler said in a statement.

“A few kilometres from the cargo precinct, at the Kempton Park off-ramp of the highway, the robbers were confronted by police members and Reshebile Security staff. Two members of the gang attempted to flee on foot. A shootout ensued in which one of the robbers was killed and another arrested.

Bob Gurr, vice president of Swissport South Africa, confirmed it was not known at this stage exactly how many robbers carried out the hold-up, as well as what was in fact stolen as part of the robbery.

Gunkel-Keuler says airport management thanks both the police and Reshebile staff for their immediate response and swift action.

“This speaks of the collaborative effort between airport management, the police and other key stakeholders in an attempt to arrest this very dire crime situation. We congratulate our contracted security company, Reshebile  Protection Services and the police on this very vital arrest.”

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