KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) police operations to hunt down 16 escaped prisoners who are yet to be rearrested in Pietermaritzburg are continuing on Thursday. Dramatic scenes unfolded on Wednesday when a group of suspects – targeting a police van to set free a single prisoner – ended up releasing dozens of felons when they attempted to hijack the vehicle.
In total, 45 awaiting-trial prisoners who were being transported from prison to the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates Court escaped custody when the five armed gunmen forced the prisoner transport vehicle off the road. They then pointed firearms at the police officers while one of the men use a bolt cutter to cut the locks on the back of the vehicle.
The men on the run are charged with serious crimes including murder, rape and robbery.
Police on the hunt for escaped KZN prisoners
South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naiker said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that some of the prisoners had decided not to flee when the opportunity presented itself while others handed themselves over to police at various locations in Pietermaritzburg. More of the escaped prisoners were found by police in the city.
“By late yesterday afternoon, 27 of the 45 prisoners were back in police custody whilst 18 were confirmed to be on the run. This morning, two more were rearrested bringing the total on the run to 16,” said Naiker.
SAPS released the names and charges associated with those still on the run:
- Siphelele Chamane (28) – Murder
- Mbukiseni Ndlovu (38) – Murder
- Mpho Phalo (31) – Murder
- Mphali Khanyiso Kou (30) – Murder
- Thubelihle Dlomo (19) – Murder
- Sphelele Ntsuntsu Mkhize (35) – Robbery/Rape
- Kabelo Mtisilwane (27) – Robbery
- Wiseman Shezi (26) – Robbery
- Talent Mncube (19) – Assault GBH
- Mlungisi Caster Ndlovu (25) – Theft
- Skhumbuzo Ngcobo (36) – Theft of Motor Vehicle
- Sbonelo Bhengu (31) – Malicious Damage to Property
- Fonane Paulo Pone (31) – Immigration Act
- Frank Lutchman (23) – Immigration Act
- George Paul (29) – Immigration Act
- Mlungisi Mncwabe (43) – Attempted Murder
Pictures of the accused are attached to the SAPS statement, found here.
‘No effort spared’ in search for escapees
Naiker said that specialised multidisciplinary teams have been assembled to hunt down the prisoners that are on the run. He also confirmed that the two police officers who had been in the hijacked vehicle had sustained minor injuries relating to the crash.
“These teams will work incessantly until they arrest those that they were tasked to hunt down. No effort is being spared as the teams have been bolstered with the necessary resources and expertise to full fill their mission,” he said.
KZN Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi has visited the scene of the audacious escape and has given “specific tasking’s” to senior officers from the Umgungundlovu District and Provincial Office.
“Whilst our efforts are focussed on hunting down these escapees, the escaping is being investigated from a criminal perspective and from an internal standpoint,” said Mkhwanazi.
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