November 03 2009 at 07:28AM
By Shaun Smillie
Saartjie Koen was meant to die. A robber had grabbed her around the neck, put a pistol to her head and pulled the trigger.
Instead the bullet grazed Koen's skull, knocking her to the ground. Her assailants grabbed her handbag, then ran off, one of them pausing to kick her in the head as he made his escape.
Two months later Koen is still recovering
The robbery, captured on closed-circuit television, took less than a minute from the time Koen drove into the car park to when the three robbers climbed back into their white VW Golf.
Miraculously, Koen, 60, who was left lying in the driveway, was alive after being shot three times in the leg, arm and head.
Two months later Koen is still recovering, but no one has been arrested for the robbery that took place in Silverton, Tshwane. It is for this reason that her husband Hannes opted to hire a private investigator.
Now Daryl Els, of Christian Botha Investigations, believes he is on the trail of a gang of robbers who operate from Tembisa and specialise in what police refer to as associated robberies.
This involves robbing victims after they leave a bank having withdrawn a large amount of cash. The gang has, over several months, targeted Pretoria's eastern suburbs. Els wants to talk to an 18-year-old woman called Nombuso Nkosi who he believes could have information about the robbery. She lives in Tembisa.
She hasn't seen the CCTV footage of the robbery
In August, Koen, on her way to work, was followed from a Silverton branch of Absa Bank after she had withdrawn R50 000. Afterwards she drove to her family business, Trio Trade. As she parked her car, she didn't notice the white Golf pull up outside the gate.
One of the men knocked out the security guard.
"As I was getting out of the car, the two were on me. They didn't talk, they just shot," Koen recalled.
One of the robbers fired twice, hitting Koen in the right leg and left arm. The man tried to grab her handbag, but Koen fought back. Then his accomplice came up behind her, put his arm around her neck and shot her.
Just metres away, in his office, Hannes saw what was happening. He saw the gun pushed against her head, and a puff of smoke as the bullet left the barrel. "At that moment I thought she was dead," he said. But Koen was conscious.
"I was fine. I was screaming 'please help'. There was blood streaming from me," she said. Seconds later, her husband rushed her to hospital.
What can be seen in the CCTV footage is another vehicle, believed to be a white Toyota Venture, following the Golf.
"The Venture probably had the spotter, who identified the target," said Els.
The usual modus operandi is that the spotter watches out for a target in the bank, then leaves the bank and passes on the information to the robbers, who commit the crime.
Police say associated robberies are on the increase, as criminals are finding bank customers softer targets than cash-in-transit vans.
They are also more violent.
Police believe the gang that tried to kill Koen is probably the same one operating from Tembisa responsible for a spate of robberies. The gang is believed to have more than 20 members.
Koen will go into surgery on November 13. She hopes to regain full use of her wrist.
She hasn't seen the CCTV footage of the robbery - and doesn't know if she wants to.
Anyone with information on Nombuso Nkosi can call Daryl Els at 082 877 2168 or Frans Molokome at 082 682 0161.
This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on November 03, 2009