Abel Zhakata Senior Reporter
A SUDDEN lavish lifestyle and CCTV pictures sold out notorious armed robbers who recently broke into a Mutare GTel shop and stole high-end cellphones valued at more than $70 000 in a movie-style smash-and-grab 90-second robbery.
Detectives in Harare who were doing their daily surveillance duties last Friday in Hopley Farm got suspicious of the way the one of the suspects was spending cash at a drinking spot.
They tracked and eventually arrested him with the intention of wanting to know more about his source of income. Coincidentally, one of the detectives quickly identified the suspect as one of the robbers who was caught on camera during the GTel heist as his face matched with the pictures that were published in The Manica Post following the robbery.
Upon further interrogation, the suspect confessed to the GTel robbery and a host of other break-ins he and his gang orchestrated in Mutare and other cities.
A detective privy to the case said the suspect also confessed to the arresting cops that they had planned to rob a shop in Gweru the following night.
He sold out his other gang members and explained to the cops how they executed the break-ins.
Officer Commanding Manicaland Police Commissioner Dr Wiklef Makamache confirmed the arrest of three of the gang members. He said the police were fast closing in on two of the remaining suspects.
Comm Makamache said the arrest of the suspects, who have since confessed to orchestrating the robberies as well as making positive indications at crime scenes, would help the police solve a litany of crimes that were committed in the eastern border city.
“This case is still under investigation and we are not at liberty to make public the identities of the arrested criminals at this juncture because this might compromise our work,” he said.
Comm Makamache, however, said one of the robbers was arrested after he took some of the stolen cellphones to a dealer in Harare with the intention of flushing out their systems in a bid to avoid detection.
“After the robbery police in Mutare relayed a message to all stations in the country about the heist. Our counterparts in Harare received the message and they spread it to various workstations in the capital city. Cellphone dealers were also told of the robbery and the nature of the stolen items.
“So when this suspect visited the alert dealer with the intention of flushing out the cellphones, the dealer quickly tipped off the police and an arrest was made.”
Comm Makamache said investigations done to date show that the arrested three suspects and the fugitive two accomplices all live in Harare and they only travelled to Mutare on November 7 to commit the GTel robbery.
“These criminals have a full knowledge of the City of Mutare. They come during the day and do their investigations and surveillance, spotting the best shop to hit. They did their homework well. At night they pounced on the shop and raced back to the capital city to sell their loot.
“There was a guard on duty at the GTel shop but he was threatened with violence and he bolted from the scene fearing for his life. Information at hand shows that the arrested gang is also connected to the Sanhanga Building break-in. They also stole cellphones and some laptops at one of the shops at the complex.
“We are also investigating their involvement in the theft of 78 suits that were stolen from a clothing shop in Mutare which was broken into using the same smash-and-grab modus operandi. Our officers are in the process of collecting exhibits by way of tracking down all the items these robbers had sold to unsuspecting buyers. The exhibits are coming and we want to leave no stone unturned so that we close these outstanding cases in the best possible way,” said Comm Makamache.
The GTel robbery was done under a minute and 28 seconds.
A security guard, who was manning the premises bolted for dear life after the daring five armed robbers threatened him with death.
The suspects who were driving a silver Toyota Runx pounced on the shop at exactly 12.55am.
Videos captured on the CCTV system, which were availed to this publication, showed that the criminals parked their vehicle with its lights switched off on the pavement near the shop.
Two of the suspects, who were wearing headgear, got out of the car. One of the robbers smashed the window panes of the entrance door with an iron bar. He got inside while his accomplice who was holding a blue sack followed.
While inside they smashed the glass displays and took a total of 16 cellphones that were on display.
They put the loot in the blue sack.
The other two robbers patrolled outside the shop, ready to attack anyone who dared to interfere with their criminal enterprise.
After emptying the displays, the robbers jumped into the vehicle and sped off.