Durban – A funeral director has warned mourners to be more vigilant at funerals and crematoriums as criminals see them as soft targets.
Logan Chetty, chairperson of the KZN Funeral Directors Association, made this comment in light of a recent robbery at Clare Estate crematorium.
He said mourners and funeral services staff were becoming victims during cremations.
Johannesburg resident Shalen Rangasamy, 33, and his five cousins are still reeling from shock after they were held up at gunpoint on Monday at the crematorium’s parking area.
They were waiting for his grandmother’s ashes.
“My brother and I went to leave our jackets in the car. We had seen two guys pass us but did not think anything of it. We were still chatting when I heard a guy say listen brother give me everything. We were surrounded by four guys armed with guns and knives,” he recalled.
In four minutes, Rangasamy said the robbers took their belongings and what they could from the cars including handbags and sunglasses.
“I have been a victim of robbery before so, emotionally, I handled it better than the others. You think about what you could have done to prevent it. We did not expect anyone to take a chance because we were in a group.
“We did not aggravate the robbers. We were so shaken and missed the final prayer for granny because we had to go to the police station and cancel our bank cards,” he said.
Colonel Thembeka Mbhele, police spokesperson, said the group was robbed of their cellphones a laptop, clothing and money. A case of armed robbery was opened at Sydenham SAPS.
An official of Clare Estate Crematorium, insisted the robbery did not happen on their premises.
He said the social media reports were sensationalising the robberies. The official said robberies were happening everywhere. He felt nobody should have a fear of coming to the crematorium.
Rivaaj Ramdass, a crime activist, said the criminals used the nearby informal settlements as thoroughfares. He said they ran along the golf course and through the settlements into waiting cars or used public transport.
“I was rushing to the scene. The victims had not given a description of the suspects clothing. I passed a few men on the M19 but didn’t know if they were fleeing from the scene,” he said.
A few months ago, Chetty said, a funeral service staff member was held up in Stellawood Cemetery at gunpoint. Their equipment, valued at R20 000, used to lower coffins into the ground was stolen.
“Our advice would be for mourners to walk in groups to and from the parking areas. We have spoken to police to initiate more patrols,” Chetty said.
The Daily News recently reported on a Phoenix family who were held up at Kenilworth Cemetary in Overport. Their Golf V GTi was stolen.
Satish Dhupelia, Sydenham Community Policing Forum (CPF) spokesperson, said there would be a discussion with businesses on that road to pool their resources to hire a single security company to manage the area.
The CPF also urged those visiting the crematorium not to park in isolated areas.
Dennis Pillay, a member of the Social Civic Activist Association, said the crematorium was busy and should provide security for the car park.
“Soon robbers will make their way into the hall. The location is isolated with many escape routes,” he said.