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Turkish Airlines flight crew robbed and bashed in Jo’burg

January 22, 2019 Headline News No Comments

A band of armed desperadoes has attacked and robbed the crew of a Turkish Airlines flight to Johannesburg, highlighting a disturbing new type of crime in the big South African city – the “follow-home robbery”.

The Turkish ambassador to South Africa, Elif Çomoğlu Ülgen, confirmed the robbery happened last week while the airline crew were returning to their hotel from a dinner in the central city.

Crewmembers were in a hotel shuttle bus when armed assailants blocked the bus at traffic lights with their own vehicle, then leapt out and robbed the flight crew at gunpoint.

The chief pilot was assaulted and battered during the robbery, with the thieves stealing valuable items including at least one mobile phone, Daily Sabah in Istanbul reported.

The crew has since returned to Turkey safely.

Yusuf Abramjee, Johannesburg-based anti-crime activist and vice-president of Crime Stoppers International, told South Africa’s Saturday Star newspaper the robbery was an example of new “follow-home robberies”.

“There are several gangs and they are dangerous,” Abramjee said.

“This is their speciality, they follow passengers from OR Tambo International Airport and rob them along the way to their destinations.”

The robbers don’t necessarily have to start out from the airport; it’s mainly a matter of choosing a target and following in a vehicle.

“They are brazen and heavily armed,” Abramjee warned.

Abramjee says new criminal gangs are taking up this type of crime, which they view as lucrative with minimal risk. A recent police blitz on cash-in-transit heists has spurred a switch among criminals to follow-home robberies, Abramjee said.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) warns Australians visiting south Africa to “exercise a high degree of caution because of the high level of serious crime.

“The frequency of most types of crime is significantly higher than in Australia. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times.”

Specifically, DFAT warns:

Crime at airports

  • Crime in and around airports occurs, particularly in Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. Criminals operating out of the airports have followed arriving passengers to ATMs, foreign currency exchange facilities or accommodation and robbed them.
  • Theft from luggage occurs. Don’t place electronics, jewellery, cameras and other valuables in checked luggage.

Crimes in other settings

A range of crimes occur in South Africa, including:

  • Murders, rape, muggings, robbery and other forms of theft, often involving weapons and violence.
  • Carjackings and ‘smash and grab’ thefts from vehicles are common, particularly on major routes and intersections after dark.
  • Robberies at shopping centres have been on the rise, including with violence. Be alert at all times.
  • Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and on commuter trains in Cape Town.
  • Assaults and robberies of travellers after their food or drinks were spiked.
  • Theft from hotel rooms and guest homes, including within game parks. Don’t leave luggage and valuables unattended. Place in safekeeping facilities.

Written by Peter Needham

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