Gang of suspected armed robbers appears in court

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Gang of suspected armed robbers appears in court 
Suspected armed robbers, escorted by police detectives, arrive at the Harare Magistrates Court yesterday

Yeukai Karengezeka Court Correspondent

NINE suspected robbers accused of involvement in a spree of armed robberies, which include the notorious J and P Security US$145 000 heist in 2022, have been arrested and were brought to court yesterday.

Innocent Chawaguta (37), Tafadzwa Chirinda Chaute (36), Owen Mbayi (37), Promise Mussa (36), Tapiwa Chigwaze (39), Winston Matizanadzo (46), Kamuriwo Mudziwaona (39) and Farai Chauke (38) appeared before Harare regional magistrate Taurai Manuwere charged with five counts of armed robbery.

They were told only the High Court could grant them bail before being remanded to May 2 pending finalisation of investigations.

Prosecutor Mr Anesu Chirenje alleged that on May 16, 2022 just after midnight, the gang scaled a pre-cast wall and entered the premises at 17 Walterhill, Eastlea Harare – the offices of J and P Security.

They were seen on CCTV by Hardlife Matare and Nyasha Severa who were manning the control room and when Mr Matare walked out to check what was happening, he was confronted by the gang that was armed with pistols and rifles.

The gang manhandled the two together with other members of staff who were present. They tied their hands and legs and locked them in a toilet.

The gang grabbed the keys to the strong room and stole cash that had been collected from various clients amounting to US$142 995 and six firearms. Only  US$4 900 was recovered.

On the second charge, it is alleged that on February 25 this year at around 1am, the gang robbed security guard Denford Chizanga who was manning 798 Acacia Street, Windsor Park in Ruwa.

The suspects armed with a revolver and pistols attacked Mr Chizanga who was armed with a shotgun. They tied him up using cable ties, and robbed him of a cellphone and US$3 cash. They took away his shotgun and tried to blast open the cash safe, but failed.

They later stole three laptops and other property valued at US$4 952.The value of the recovered property is US$1 500.

On another count, Assulani Jackson was doing his routine work at a service station when the gang arrived and fired shots into  the air to scare him. The court heard the gang then grabbed and assaulted him. They took his cellphone and bound his face with red and white tape.

They then dragged him into a kiosk at the service station and forced him to lie down on his stomach while one gangster questioned him about the location of the safe. He denied knowledge of where money was kept and the gang then took a Chubb safe which was in the kiosk, it contained US$12.

They also took a .303 rifle and left Mr Jackson lying in the kiosk. Property valued US$400 was recovered.

On another charge, the State alleged that on March 27 2024 at about 6pm, Mr Liberty Tsingano and Mr Elton Kadembetembe started the night shift at a service station in Harare.

But the following day at about 2am, the gang turned up in two vehicles, a silver Nissan AD van and a white Mitsubishi, both registration numbers unknown.

They acted as if they needed to buy fuel and parked their two vehicles near  the pumps where they indicated that they needed fuel worth US$10 for the Mitsubishi Colt vehicle.

Attendant Mr Kadembetembe filled the car with petrol worth US$10 and then demanded payment.

One of the accused who was armed with an unidentified pistol jumped out, causing Mr Kadembetembe to panic and run away without getting payment for the fuel.

Mr Tsingano, who was about 30 metres away, drew his revolver and fired a warning shot.

Suddenly all the gang members jumped out of the two vehicles armed with two suspected AK rifles and six unidentified pistols.

They charged towards Mr Tsingano and seized his revolver. The suspects tied him up with a rope and force marched him into a separate room where they left him under guard.

The accused broke the screen and door to the office where a safe was secured and gained entry, the court heard. Whilst inside, they used explosives to blast the safe which partially opened.

They tried to take money from the safe but the notes could not be easily pulled out since they were rolled into bunches.

The suspects were arrested after a robbery at a residence in The Grange, where they stole US$650, laptops and cellphones on April 13 this year. The police tracked a stolen iPad to the home of one of the gang members, leading to the arrest of Innocent Chawaguta.

He implicated eight other suspects who were arrested through a series of lures and shoot outs.