A Durban policeman is undergoing emergency surgery after he was shot twice in the chest yesterday while trying to apprehend armed robbers.
Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said the incident happened at Beverley Jewellery store at the Pavilion shopping complex in Westville before 10am.
The police's Michael Read said four armed robbers had struck the store and were leaving the scene when Detective Andre Mostert of Berea police station confronted them.
A close friend and colleague, Inspector Nolan Naidoo, said Mostert was on duty at the time. "When he saw the robbery in progress, he tried to intervene, but the robbers turned on him," Naidoo said.
He described Mostert as a "helpful, down-to-earth person" who is married with a young daughter.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said Mostert was shot twice in the chest and airlifted to St Augustine's Hospital.
"He is presently undergoing emergency surgery," said Botha yesterday morning.
Mdunge, meanwhile, said it was unclear if the robbers had escaped with money and jewellery or if any of them had been shot by Mostert.
An off-duty policewoman who had been shopping at the time said dozens of Christmas shoppers ran for cover when several shots were fired inside the mall.
"Some dropped their shopping bags and dived for cover while others ran into nearby stores," she said.
Staffers at nearby shops were seen rolling down their shutters and closing their doors.
The policewoman said the jewellery store window was riddled with bullets. Cartridges were scattered all over the place.
There were no other reported injuries.
Beverley Jewellery is situated on the ground floor of the mall, next to an escalator and opposite Edgars and Woolworths.
The mall's public relations officer, Zama Khumalo, and the general manager, Preston Gaddy, could not be reached for comment yesterday. - Sapa