MALALANE – Pascal Memmi and his daughters Nina and Lou had just spent a few nights in town and were headed to Komatipoort, when they made a last stop for supplies.
When the trio parked, they were approached by four men, who started chatting to them, leaning into the vehicle and giving them “advice”. The tourists were bewildered and tried to get them to back off. The men eventually left and the family headed into the centre.
Soon after, the criminals approached the vehicle, opened the doors and stole everything of value. This included the Memmis’ luggage, passports, cash, cameras and airplane tickets for their trip back home.
The tourists suspect that the criminals used remote jamming to prevent the vehicle from locking.
The case was immediately reported to the police and the community sprang into action.
Mathilda Bezuidenhout of Bezuidenhout B&B, where the Memmis had stayed, thanked Capt Pat Banda, Mariette Preddy, Debbie Nel of CD Tours and Pixie Howell for their assistance.
She stated that everyone took great trouble help the traumatised tourists and even contacted the French Embassy to start the process of obtaining new passports and documentation.
Bezuidenhout urged all tourism and hospitality providers to warn their clients to be vigilant and more security conscious.
Lex Hollman, owner of the Inkwazi Shopping Centre, said that the tourists visited the centre’s security to view video footage of the incident.
They traced the vehicle’s number plate and found it to be a rental car.
Hollmann stated that criminals have been known to steal someone’s identity to rent a vehicle, which is then used to commit a crime.
By using their camera network, Hollman’s staff have managed to catch many criminals and even track down stolen vehicles. Security at the centre keeps an eye out for criminals and let their customers and shoppers know which crimes to be wary of.
Remote control jamming is still a major problem, not only here but across the country. Criminals use a normal gate remote and press it at the same time people lock their cars remotely. The signals cancel each other out and despite the lights flickering to signify that the car has been locked, the doors remain unlocked.
Many people do not double check that the vehicle is locked and then walk away. The criminals then wait a few moments before opening the vehicle and stealing all valuables.
Hollmann stated that remote jamming is usually employed by several criminals in one vehicle and the whole process takes less than 30 seconds.
Criminals often target tourists in the area as they are not aware of the local dangers and are not as vigilant as they should be. Hollmann stated that they are very strict with their staff and that they take great pride in their jobs. Several shoppers that have lost phones, wallets and other valuables had them returned thanks to centre staff.
The Memmis planned to visit the Kruger National Park and Panorama Route but cut the trip short to visit the French Embassy. They had interviews to get new passports, as they need documents to return home.
This was only their second time in SA, following a visit last year.