By Leonard Ncube and Patrick Chitumba
A high-speed chase between four suspected car thieves and police officers from the Vehicle Theft Squad (VTS) ended tragically when the stolen vehicle fatally hit a woman and seriously injured her daughter in Gweru yesterday.
The speeding Toyota Fortuner was stolen in Victoria Falls on Thursday evening and the owner was tracking it with the assistance of the VTS from Bulawayo.
The drama unfolded yesterday around 11.30AM at the corner of Robert Mugabe Street and Emmerson Mnangagwa Way near the Boggie Tower in the Gweru city centre.
The woman, after being hit by the speeding vehicle, flew into the air and cracked her skull, dying instantly while her daughter was ferried to Gweru Provincial Hospital where her condition is said to be serious.
Two of the alleged car thieves were arrested while two escaped.
Before the accident, witnesses said the suspected car thieves were involved in an altercation with the police near Chicken Slice before the driver took off at high speed down Robert Mugabe Street.
The driver lost control after hitting the woman and her daughter and the Toyota Fortuner rammed into a Nissan Navara that was turning at the Boggie Tower.
The Toyota Fortuner’s radiator and fan were extensively damaged and it started leaking water, forcing the driver to stop.
The suspects bolted out of the vehicle with the police in hot pursuit leading to the arrest of the two suspects.
The driver and his colleague melted into the crowd of shoppers, osiphatheleni and vendors, making good their escape.
National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday confirmed the incident but said the narrative doing rounds on social media that the police and the suspects were involved in a shootout, was false.
He warned criminals against speeding through public places as they endanger other people’s lives.
When the Chronicle news crew arrived at the scene, the body of the yet to be identified woman was still lying on the tarmac.
Detectives were taking evidence which included figure prints from the Toyota Fortuner.
Police had a torrid time dispersing members of the public who had gathered to witness the fatal accident.
OK Supermarket briefly closed doors as some people ran into the shop as they ran away from police officers who had resorted to using batons in an attempt to disperse the people.
A vendor who operates outside OK Supermarket said the driver of the Toyota Fortuner encroached on the right lane where the woman and her daughter were walking.
“From nowhere I heard a loud bang and when I looked up, I saw the woman flying before she hit the tarmac and died on the spot. From there, I saw the same car hitting a Nissan Navara that was turning at the Boggie Tower,” said Ms Fungai Jayaguru.
She said after hitting the Nissan Navara, the Toyota Fortuner veered off the road and stopped near a public toilet close to the Tower.
“I then saw people get out of the Toyota Fortuner running towards Jet Store. Armed police officers arrived at the scene immediately and gave chase leading to the arrest of two of the suspected robbers.
“A taxi driver who witnessed the accident rushed the girl to hospital but her condition is said to be bad,” said Ms Jayaguru.”
The owner of the stolen car, Mr Vaugahn Turner, said the thieves were so sophisticated that he and his family did not hear them break down the gate and door into the house where they took car keys and a laptop bag.
Nothing else was stolen.
“We noticed in the morning when we woke up that the car was not there. They forcibly entered the yard and house where they broke the door. The car is a diesel engine and it seems they did not start it in the yard because we would have heard the noise,” said Mr Turner.
It is suspected that the suspects may have been a gang and tried to steal from Mr Turner’s neighbours but left in a huff after the occupants heard the noise and switched on the lights.
“My neighbour sent me a WhatsApp message to alert me after they heard noise and someone fleeing from their property but I only saw the text in the morning,” said Mr Turner who immediately filed a report in the morning.
He commended police for their swift response leading to the recovery of the vehicle around 11am in Gweru where it had been involved in an accident after a high-speed-chase with police.
Sources said the vehicle was spotted at the Hwange toll gate at 6am.
Mr Turner said it had half-full fuel tank suggesting the suspects may have refuelled between Victoria Falls and Gweru.
“I would like to thank the police and CID (Criminal Investigations Department) for a quick reaction leading to recovery of the vehicle. I am not sure though if it’s reparable as the pictures show that the front was damaged. I also commend the Victoria Falls community, this is a small community and we know each other. This has been one of the most positive examples of social media use I have ever seen,” said Mr Turner.
There have been a number of housebreaking incidents and attempts at some houses in Victoria Falls lately. The Chronicle