Wednesday, 4 February 2009

'Police ignored calls'

Graeme Hosken

February 04 2009 at 09:34AM

Police have admitted that they were to blame for the 13-hour delay a Pretoria family endured following a terrifying attack by a gang of robbers on their smallholding.

Ursula Bekker, her daughter, Angelique ,5, and friend Johan Maritz, were attacked in November last year while asleep in their Knopjeslaagte home.

The gunmen launched their attack against Bekker when she spotted one of three men breaking into her house.

Bekker hit one of the men with a pool cue, but was overpowered by his accomplices who repeatedly hit her until she collapsed.

The robbers turned on Maritz when he ran downstairs to help Bekker, who slipped past them to run to her daughter's bedroom.

One of the attackers, however, caught Bekker and continued to beat her until she broke free and leapt through a window with Angelique to safety.

Neighbours, who heard the screams for help, pressed their panic buttons and called Monitornet security company whose guards arrived within five minutes.

Police only arrived 13 hours later, having ignored repeated calls from a policeman, who is a family friend who contacted the 10111 police emergency centre repeatedly from his cellphone and police radio, as well as neighbours and Monitornet.

It is not meant to take longer than 10 minutes for any police officer, regardless of where they are in the city, to respond to a crime in progress, especially serious crimes such as an armed robbery.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Eugene Opperman, confirmed that an operator at the police emergency 10111 centre was responsible for the delay. "An internal investigation revealed who was responsible and that person has been disciplined," he said.

He said the investigation established that the operator who had dealt with the call had neglected to pass on the information.

He, however, declined to comment on measures taken against the officer and steps taken to ensure such a situation does not occur again. "These steps are operational procedures. All that I can say is that steps have been taken and procedures relooked at to avoid similar situations in the future," he said.

Bekker said while she was pleased that action had been taken against those who ignored their calls for help and that police had accepted responsibility for their negligence, she was still waiting to hear what had happened to the case.

"I do not know if any arrests have been made. My family and I are still living in fear," she said.

Bekker said she hoped the police would learn from what had happened and realise that they could not treat citizens, who were ultimately the ones who paid their salaries, with disrespect.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on February 04, 2009


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