Diamonds worth millions vanish in EL mall heist
Two robbers posed as customers before three others joined them
Brazen diamond thieves posing as lovers choosing an engagement ring pulled out guns and cleaned out Browns Jewellers of all its precious gems and caused panic in Hemingways Mall on Thursday.
The “lovers” were suddenly joined by three more gangsters who robbed the store of precious stones valued at R2m.
The gang also fled with three cellphones belonging to staff, said Cambridge police spokesperson Captain Mluleki Mbi.
Hemingways general manager Reinett Van Tonder said a man and a woman entered first pretending to be a couple before they were joined by three more men.
Once inside, Mbi said the suspects held staff up and locked them in a storeroom before making their getaway.
A case of business robbery is being investigated, said Mbi.
Store manager Jenny Hart said they were still calculating the value of what disappeared in the heist, which has left their shop empty and staff traumatised. “They took everything. At the moment I don't have the full facts, we will know everything tomorrow,” said Hart.
The Dispatch was told by police sources that the haul was worth R2m.
During an interview at the mall's offices on Thursday, Van Tonder said: “This is always the case in these robberies – always two enter first, posing as a couple looking for a ring.”
When the Dispatch visited the store after 3pm on Thursday, traumatised staff were too distraught to speak or even step outside the police tape which cordoned off the crime scene.
A sales assistant, who did not want to be named, said bosses from the head office in Johannesburg were coming in on Friday morning to assess the losses.
“I know nothing, I am new, not even allowed to talk,” said the trembling employee.
Another sales assistant shouted: “Don't talk to him.”
The woman then walked quickly away.
No one was harmed in the robbery and no shots were fired, said Van Tonder.
At the neighbouring ONA boutique Siphosethu Kepe, 27, said there was panic as shops brought down their metal shutters and afternoon shoppers ran for safety.
“I had a customer who suddenly stopped her purchase saying she was feeling unsafe before running out.”
Kepe said she heard an alarm and saw smoke coming out of the jewellery store.
Smoke is automatically released when the alarm is activated.
“I heard people shouting “Robbery!” and shoppers were running in all directions.”
Keedo baby store assistant manager Dimakatso Nakin, 27, said when she asked security guards and centre management officials what the commotion and smoke was all about, they replied: “You better close your doors immediately.”“We shut the doors immediately and so did the other shops.“Then we heard there was a big robbery at Browns.”Winston Sahd furniture store manager Natalie Domoney, 56, said she thought it was a fire drill.“I came from Checkers just after 2pm and saw lots of smoke and the alarm sound and didn't suspect anything until mall management sent an announcement that there was an armed robbery.”Van Tonder said in a statement: “We can confirm that a robbery took place at Browns Jewellers at 2.20pm.”..