Gran kidnapped, robbed

Officers from Reaction Unit South Africa found the man hiding in the ceiling of his bathroom. Picture: Reaction Unit South Africa

Officers from Reaction Unit South Africa found the man hiding in the ceiling of his bathroom. Picture: Reaction Unit South Africa

Published May 26, 2024


A 75-YEAR-OLD grandmother was allegedly kidnapped at knife-point, while shopping in the Verulam CBD and taken to various ATMs where her bank account was “cleaned out” before she was set free by a Phoenix conman.

Less than 72 hours later, the suspect was nabbed hiding in the ceiling of his Westham, Phoenix, home, after he was identified through CCTV footage by the woman’s son.

The 40-year-old man, who “acts as if he was a long lost family member” has allegedly scammed more than eight pensioners in recent weeks.

Dillon Naidoo, 48, said his parents, aged 77 and 75, went to the CBD using public transport from Trenance Park on May 8.

“My parents had just split up to do errands. The suspect, who was driving a white Toyota Conquest, spotted my mom and tried to strike up a conversation with her. She soon realised the man was trying to scam her. He was seated in the vehicle when he pulled out a knife. My mum was afraid. Before she knew it, the man jumped off the car, grabbed hold of her at knifepoint and forced her into the front passenger side of the car,” Naidoo said.

He said the man jumped into the driver’s side and demanded his mother open her handbag.

“She had R500 cash in her bag, which he took. He then asked for her bank card. He told her he was going to take her to an ATM to withdraw the rest of her money. First he went to an ATM at a petrol station in Island Street. But the machine was not working. He then drove her to a grocery store where he made her withdraw R1 000 at the till point,” Naidoo said.

He said after her account had been “cleaned out”, the man took her back to his vehicle and drove her back to where he had taken her from.

“My mother was traumatised. She managed to go to a shop that is owned by my friend and asked him for help. He then called me. I immediately fetched my mother and reported the incident at the police station.”

Naidoo said he was determined to track the suspect down and through his own investigation, obtained the CCTV footage and was able to track the man.

He said the following day, when the man was arrested by Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa), he heard about other elderly people who had also been scammed.

He claimed the suspect’s family promised to pay back the money if they did not proceed with the charges against him.

“His parents told me that if we drop the case, they would pay my mother back. His mother is the same age as my mother. I refused. He targeted elderly men and women, who lost the little pension money they had.”

He alleged the suspect stole money from an elderly woman who sold food stamps.

“He told her he would give her notes for her change. He took R2 500 and never returned,” Naidoo alleged.

Head of Rusa, Prem Balram, said when they arrested the man, he had offered officers R50 000 for his release.

“We surrounded his home and noticed him attempting to jump out of the rear window of a double-storey home. He then abandoned the attempt when he noticed that officers had surrounded the property. But when we entered the home, the man could not be located. Officers keeping observation a short distance away then noticed tiles being removed from the roof. He was hiding in the bathroom ceiling,” Balram said.

He said the suspect only surrendered after 30 minutes.

Balram said eight pensioners, between 65 and 80 years old, said they had also been robbed by the suspect.

Another couple, 61 and 60 years old, said they were shopping for groceries in the CBD when the suspect allegedly robbed “us of our last R1 500 meant for our food and medication”.

“We were walking past his car when he started talking to us, saying he was my cousin’s son. He asked me if I recognised him and I said ‘no’. I told him I was getting old and my eyesight was not so good,” the pensioner said.

The couple said the man was adamant he was their family member and asked them to “look at him and think nicely” about how they were related.

“I then doubted myself and asked him if he was my cousin, Deborah’s son. He said ‘yes’. He told us to jump in the car and that he would transport us to buy our groceries,” the pensioner said.

When he jumped in, he said the man had hugged the pensioner twice and seemed so happy to be of help.

“As he was driving, he made a phone call supposedly to his wife. He told her to withdraw R2 000. He then told her to withdraw another R500, which he said he would give to me and my wife. He told his wife that he was taking us for lunch to McDonald’s. I was so happy that our younger relatives were so loving and helpful.”

He said the man stopped his vehicle at a parking lot and said he was waiting for his wife to come with the money.

“He asked how much cash we had with us, and asked us to give it to him. He said he would give it to us back once his wife arrived. I had withdrawn R1 400. I had used R100 and gave him R1300. I had R300 in my account and he said I should leave the R1 300 with him and go to the ATM to withdraw the R300. My wife sat in the car and I went to the ATM, but it was not working,” he said.

He said when he returned, the man and his wife were gone.

After 45 minutes of waiting, the pensioner said he remembered the man said his wife was at Shoprite and he went to the entrance of the store, where he found his wife standing alone.

“He had told her to jump off and go to the store and he disappeared. That was my grant money and all that I had to get by for the month. I was in tears as I had not bought the groceries I went to buy,” he said.

The man is set to reappear in court this week.