18/09/2006 08:08 - (SA)
Pieter Jordaan and Eduan Roos, Beeld
Pretoria - "More shots were fired than in a war zone - it was 15 minutes of hell," said a businessman from the East Rand, who decided to pursue a taxi full of heavily armed robbers and got involved in a shoot-out with them.
John Nicholls, 41, from Alberton, was shot three times and his son Johnny, 6, sustained a wound to his head caused by glass shards.
Nicholls, a firearm specialist and former member of the special forces, told from his hospital bed on Sunday afternoon how he had taken on between 10 and 15 robbers.
According to police spokesperson Superintendent Andy Pieke the gang of robbers robbed a Spar in Leondale, Germiston, of an unknown amount of money shortly before 17:00.
'They missed my vitals'
Members of the police crime prevention unit followed the taxi after it had skipped a busy intersection in Kritizinger Road, said Pieke.
"The taxi shortly afterwards stopped and the robbers and police members started shooting at each other. Two suspects fled on foot, but were later apprehended."
According to Pieke, some of the suspects hijacked another motorist's black Honda Ballade, while those remaining in the taxi sped away.
Nicholls and his son were on their way to the same Spar when the Ballade, with flashing emergency lights, passed him in Kritzinger Road, and pulled off on the wrong side of the road.
"I realised something was wrong. The men jumped out of the Ballade and into a taxi and started driving away. I decided to pursue them," said Nicholls.
After he had forced the taxi off the road in Van Rensburg Street about 350m further, he told Johnny to lie down, got out of his vehicle and approached the taxi. "They shot me in the hip with an AK-47.
"I immediately sought shelter from where I could fire back," he said. Nicholls, armed with a 9mm pistol, fired 16 shots before he ran out of ammunition.
"They also wounded me in the left arm and thigh, but fortunately missed my vitals. The robbers fled when the police arrived.
Nicholls then drove to hospital in his own car, where he and his son were treated.
He was in stable condition, and Johnny had been discharged.
"I thought there were only three people in the taxi, while there were actually 15. I wouldn't have stopped if I had known that," he said.
According to Pieke, six of the alleged robbers, among them those whom Nicholls had wounded, were arrested.
"We also confiscated an AK-47, three unlicensed pistols, a revolver, cash and cellphones," said Pieke.
The suspects were expected to appear in court on Monday or Tuesday.