Hijacker, robber and cop killer Bongani Botsotso Gabelo sent his wife and child to safety before taking on the police in a bloody shootout yesterday morning.
Gabelo, one of the most wanted criminals in the country, had eluded police for three years.
He was cornered at a house in Slovoville, near Dobsonville, in the early hours of the morning. When the shooting ended he was dead inside the house.
Members of the Gauteng special task team and of the Ekurhuleni metro police were involved in the raid.
Police said that after they had surrounded the house they saw Gabelo's wife and child come out. Gabelo then started shooting.
Gabelo had been on the run since July 2003 when he escaped from police custody at the Krugersdorp magistrates' court.
He was scheduled to appear in court for the murder of traffic officer Steward Dube.
Police spokesman Captain Paula Terblanche said Gabelo, who was in his 20s, was being sought in connection with an armed robbery at a Pick 'n Pay supermarket and a hijacking, both in Randfontein in March last year, and several house robberies in Roodepoort.
Terblanche said the police raided Gabelo's hideout at about 5.30am.
When Gabelo opened fire on them the police returned fire and were eventually able to force their way into the house.
They found Gabelo lying on the floor. He was dead.
Several spent cartridges were found in the house.
Neighbours said they were woken by the gunfire.
"I was preparing my children to go to school when I heard gunfire," said a neighbour, who asked not to be named.
"I peeped through the window and saw a contingent of police surrounding the house.
"I could not see if there were bullets coming from inside the house, but there was a fierce gun battle."
Neighbours described Gabelo as a "sweet and decent man" who loved his wife and child.
They said he had lived in the house, which he rented, for about three months.
His wife, Lerato Ditshwene, said she had never thought her husband would die in a battle with the police.
She claimed she was not aware that her husband was involved in criminal activities.
She said she and their three-year-old son got out of the house before the shooting began.