Train robbery leaves commuters stunned

NABEELAH MOHEDEEN

Lloyb Wybrow feared for his life last Tuesday when 10 men armed with guns reportedly robbed commuters onboard the 6.50pm train from Cape Town to Retreat.

Neither Metrorail, nor police, however, were aware of the incident when Athlone News contacted them last week.

Mr Wybrow told Athlone News he boarded the third Metro Plus carriage of the train on the Cape Flats line, on his way to Wetton station.

He said the 10 men boarded the train at Woodstock station, and robbed commuters between Hazendal and Athlone stations.

Mr Wybrow said the men had entered through the interleading door between the second and third Metro Plus carriages.

“I was sitting by the door which links the two carriages, I had my earphones in my ears. I saw people jumping up and when I took my earphones out I heard a lady saying ‘they’re robbing us, they’re robbing us’,” Mr Wybrow said.

The men then ran back to the carriage Mr Wybrow was sitting in as the train pulled into Athlone station.

“I saw two of them with guns. They ran back into the carriage I was in, right past me and just got out of the train and walked normally on the platform. The people they had robbed walked through into the carriage I was in and the one guy shouted out of the window ‘they have guns’ in case anyone tried to stop them,” he said.

Mr Wybrow, who lives in Wetton, is originally from Durban. He moved to Cape Town in September last year and travels on the Cape Flats line into the city centre to work every day.

But this is not the first time Metrorail commuters have been targeted by robbers.

In July last year the Daily Voice reported that 20 commuters on a train bound for Fish Hoek were robbed of their cellphones and laptops just after 7pm.

One of the victims, Lorenzo Darries, said between six and nine men had boarded the Metro Plus carriage at Retreat station.

“As the train arrived at Retreat station some people got off. About six guys got in and they were talking to each other and swearing. I heard one of them ask, ‘Are we going to do this?’ But I didn’t know what they were talking about,” Mr Darries had said at the time.

He said as the train was leaving the station, three more men entered the carriage from the side door.

“A man who was sitting a few rows down had his laptop out but he put it away when he noticed the first group of guys,” he said.

“Suddenly one of them pulled out a knife and said ‘give your phone’, and threatened to stab people. One pulled the passenger’s laptop away when he didn’t want to give it. Most of them had big knives, like kitchen cleavers. My phone was inside my pocket but when I saw what was happening I decided to just give them what they wanted. As soon as the train stopped at Steenberg, they got out and ran off,” Mr Darries said.

Ottery resident Caryn Jacobs, who travels on the Cape Flats line train to work in the city centre every day, described to Athlone News what it’s like to travel by train. “On the Cape Flats line there are lots of people but most people get off at Athlone station and take a taxi from there, so the train is empty. Once we reach Lansdowne station the panic kicks in because the distances in between the stations are longer and it is known for people to get robbed. We need to be on the look-out just in case someone sneaks up on us,” Ms Jacobs said.

When Athlone News contacted Metrorail’s stakeholder relations manager, Ziho Mihi, for comment, she said she had contacted the control centre, but the incident described by Mr Wybrow had not been reported. The Athlone News also contacted the Athlone and Lansdowne police stations, but they also had no record of the incident.