Hunter tracks down rob­ber

No more to go on than a foot­print in the sand

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - LEILA SAMODIEN

A TRA­DI­TIONAL tracker has be­come a lo­cal hero af­ter he used his skills to help catch a West Coast gang that had un­leashed a reign of ter­ror on the quiet town of Yz­er­fontein.

Car­los Mu­nawgo, 50, helped track down the last mem­ber of the five-man gang.

Us­ing noth­ing but the sus­pect’s foot­prints in the sand, Mu­nawgo tracked him for 500m be­fore he was found hid­ing in a bush.

The drama be­gan early last Fri­day, when the gang broke into the home of Hen­nie Richter and his wife Ma­riet.

Richter was badly beaten and his wife threat­ened.

The sus­pects pushed Ma­riet Richter around the house, or­der­ing her to show them where the cou­ple kept their valu­ables. They then tied the cou­ple up and made their get­away in a Toy­ota.

This was the lat­est in a string of rob­beries at Yz­er­fontein, known for its sea views and low crime rate.

Al­fie van Lit­sen­borgh, the owner of Yz­er­fontein Armed Re­sponse, said they had had 15 to 20 rob­beries over the past few weeks, all with the same modus operandi.

Lo­cals were robbed of their valu­ables, in­clud­ing cell­phones, lap­tops, money and jew­ellery, while they slept.

But in the Richters’ case the cou­ple had been up late, work­ing, when the rob­bers struck.

The tar­gets have al­ways been lo­cals, rather than the empty homes of hol­i­day home own­ers.

Van Lit­sen­borgh said they had sus­pected a gang was be­hind the at­tacks, and the com­mu­nity had been liv­ing in fear for the past few weeks.

“Peo­ple be­lieve this is their town; be­sides maybe a cou­ple of dogs, they don’t pay much at­ten­tion to se­cu­rity.

“But when the rob­beries started, they be­came very para- noid and flus­tered.”

Dar­ling po­lice sta­tion com­mis­sioner Cap­tain Roland Gabriels said that af­ter the at­tack on the Richters the five men had made off along the R27.

But near Ron­de­berg farm on the R27, the Toy­ota was pulled over.

“Marine and Coastal Man­age­ment, the po­lice, and a few other of­fi­cials were pa­trolling for poach­ers, when they pulled the car over,” said Gabriels.

Four men were ar­rested, but be­fore the fifth could be ap­pre­hended, he bolted over a wire fence and into the bush to­wards the shore.

Au­thor­i­ties called in a he­li­copter and a spe­cialised po­lice dog unit to find the sus­pect, but he evaded the searchers.

They then called on Mu­nawgo, a tracker and field guide at !Khwa ttu, a cul­tural cen­tre near Dar­ling.

“Af­ter a few hours, the he­li­copter and po­lice dogs gave up,” said Gabriels.

“But two of my of­fi­cers didn’t give up; they con­tin­ued to search with the tracker.”

Mu­nawgo told Week­end Ar­gus he be­gan his search at the wire fence by es­tab­lish­ing the sus­pect’s foot­print – he was wear­ing takkies.

The only other foot­prints in the sand were those of the po­lice of­fi­cers, all of whom were wear­ing the same type of boots.

This made it easy to iden­tify the sus­pect’s print.

Mu­nawgo said he had looked out for the takkie print in sandy patches. On grassy ar­eas, he looked out for bro­ken branches, and the shape the foot­prints had left be­hind.

“When we reached some bushes, I thought I heard a noise, like some­one mov­ing, but I thought I was imag­in­ing it be­cause of the noise from the he­li­copter.”

One of the po­lice of­fi­cers fired a warn­ing shot in the air, to no avail.

By this time the trail had gone cold.

They went back to the bush to start the trail from the beginning, but this time, when they re­turned, they found fresh tracks.

“When we tracked him to the bush, he just came out with his hands up,” said Mu­nawgo.

This is not the first time he has helped track crim­i­nals.

A few months ago, he tracked down two men who had stolen so­lar pan­els from a farmer whose prop­erty neigh­bours !Khwa ttu.

Mu­nawgo, who was born in An­gola, learnt tracking from his fa­ther, who used to hunt and gather for their fam­ily.

But he had learnt to track peo­ple un­der en­tirely dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, he said.

He was re­cruited by the then South African De­fence Force as a tracker dur­ing the war in Namibia.

Al­though Mu­nawgo en­joys help­ing the po­lice, he jokes that he loves tracking an­i­mals too much to con­sider be­com­ing a po­lice­man.

The five sus­pects ap­peared in the Malmes­bury Mag­is­trate’s Court on Mon­day.


HOT ON THE TRAIL: Car­los Mu­nawgo, a tour guide at the !Kwa ttu cul­tural cen­tre, demon­strates how he fol­lowed the spoor of a fugi­tive on the run from the po­lice.

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