14/01/2008 10:03 - (SA)
Riette Olivier, Die Burger
East London - Two angling friends had to jump into cold water to escape from criminals, while a third was first shot in the head and then threatened with death.
The incident happened along the Kiwane River at the Kiwane holiday resort at Chalumna, 40km outside East London, on Thursday evening.
Three friends, Kevin O'Brien, Andre Malherbe and Dave Dowling, all from East London, spent the whole day along the river.
While they were loading their fishing gear into Dowling's combi at about 22:00, two men suddenly appeared in front of the vehicle and fired a shot, said O'Brien.
Without a second thought, he and Dowling jumped into the river to escape from the attackers.
"We swam underwater for as far as possible and only surfaced for air when we were in the middle of the stream. From there we watched them stealing all our gear from the vehicle."
The two friends believed Malherbe had also escaped into the dark. They didn't know that he had been wounded in the head.
"Because he was hit, he couldn't get away as fast as we did. He tried to hide under the combi, but the attackers saw him."
"They pulled him from under the vehicle and threatened to kill him if he didn't give them our money and firearm. But we didn't even have a firearm with us," said O'Brien, who was still very upset on Sunday.
After the men had taken everything from the combi, they disappeared into the bush.
"We swam back and when we arrived at the combi, Andre said: 'Come on guys, we must hurry up, I was hit'."
Fortunately, he was not seriously injured.
"He was a bit confused, but kept talking to us all the way back. He received five stitches at the MediCross clinic in East London. According to the doctor the bullet grazed his skull and the skin was cut to the bone. If the bullet had hit him 1cm deeper, it would have penetrated his brain," said O'Brien.
The friends laid a charge of attempted murder and theft at the police. The suspects' fingerprints were found on the combi. Officers from Chalumna police station afterwards compared these fingerprints to others obtained at other scenes of similar attacks in the area.
"We are still waiting for the reports to determine whether these were the same men," said police spokesperson superintendent Mtati Tana.
The police requested anybody with information regarding the incident to contact police spokesperson inspector Zolani Mjekula at 043 781 1639 or 078 556 0871.
This was not the first time anglers were attacked at the Kiwane River. In December 2005 five friends hid in the river for five hours while an unknown number of attackers threw bottles and bricks at them. Nobody was injured and very little was stolen.