It had been a long evening for The Colony Arms manager, Derrick Skhosana, and he was only too glad to be finally cashing up in his office and preparing to close up shop.
He shrugged off the noise of glasses breaking in the bar area, piercing through the usual murmur of voices. These careless waiters! When would they ever learn? Someone was going to have to pay for the damage out of their pay check again. Oh, well!
He raised his head just in time to catch a glimpse to see two men running into the restaurant. Now slightly worried, he got up from his desk to check the scene. The last thing he needed at 12:00 am on a Sunday morning was another bar-fight. Although he claims these are infrequent, it wouldn't be the first time. It would just be very inconvenient. And besides, it could mean more damages for the restaurant and he could certainly live without that.
Just before making his way to the door of his office, a man walked in blocking the doorway, clutching a handgun. Fear gripped him as he refused to believe that this could actually be happening. Before he could voice out his protest, the butt of the gun made very heavy contact with the side of his head, followed by a very curt instruction to hit the floor. Skhosana obeyed immediately. Not that he had much of a choice, since his knees buckled from under him.
The unmasked gunman then made his way to the safe, and started pulling out all the money and stuffing it into a bag. He then dragged Skhosana to a storeroom where the gunman stood watch over the other employees and some of the customers who were unlucky enough to want to finish off their drinks before close-up. Skhosana soon found out that the assault to the face with the gun was not to be a once-off incident, as alternately, the employees were all given their fair share, amidst threats to not attempt any misguided efforts at heroism.
A second gunman entered the room, and proceeded to search the persons of the victims, helping himself to any cash, cellphones and any other valuables he could find. He then politely instructed all the hostages to lie down face flat. The gunmen then made their way out of the restaurant.
Shaking off the confusion of the moment, Skhosana ran outside in order to try to figure out how all of this could have been possible since The Colony Arms is located in a huge complex called The Colony on Jan Smuts Avenue, which was heavily guarded by on-site security personnel. A quick tally showed that no one was badly harmed however they were completely shaken and stirred. The security guards informed him that they had been the first to be aware of the robbery, but failed to alert him as they had each been marked by their own gunmen.
The crime had been carefully executed by at least 8 gunmen, who seemed to know the ins and outs of not only the restaurant but also the complex itself.
The Colony Arms is an unpretentious, local watering hole for many in this city. People go there to let their hair down, sing karaoke, and imbibe vast quantities of the house beverage, cane and cream soda. If armed robberies are taking place on a Saturday night - the night to go and join in the debauchery - then what does this mean for general safety? If you can't go to your local pub without the fear of being robbed, then where are you truly safe?
Since their own security company, ADT could not be contacted, our very efficient department of safety and security, the South African Police Service, were alerted, and arrived enthusiastically 45 minutes after the phone call was placed, reporting that they had had no cars at the police station until then. To Skhosana's dismay, fingerprints were not taken from the scene of the crime, although he mentioned several times that the gunmen had not been wearing gloves.
One of the most disturbing things about this robbery is that it was not the first one of its kind. Debonairs and Steers, both also based in the centre, had seen their fair share of repeated hold-ups over the last few months. There had been no arrests to date.
According to sources, there was a break-in a few months ago at Video Spot, also based in the same complex, at 4:00 am. In this case, the three perpetrators held the security guards at gun-point, gained access to the shop by throwing bricks through the window and helped themselves to 3 full-sized televisions within a period of 10 minutes.
A review of the surveillance also revealed a fourth person waiting in a getaway car, a white BMW 323i. The police arrived within 10 minutes of the alert, and this time managed to take prints and copy the surveillance footage. However, no arrests have been made.
The Colony appears to have fallen victim to a new seemingly very organised crime wave that has been sweeping the Jan Smuts strip for over a period of a year. The activities range from private house break-in to armed robbery of commercial property.
It may take a while for these crimes to be resolved. In the meantime only one thing seems to be clear: Taking up a job in The Colony's security department might not be the wisest decision ever.