A massive manhunt has been launched following the daring escape by three members of a "bank robbery gang" at the Johannesburg magistrate's court yesterday.
The fourth accused was not so lucky and was re-arrested at the scene.
Police spokesman Captain Julia Classen said: "The men overpowered and assaulted the investigating officer and a court orderly. They are aged between 20 and 30.
"We are pleading with anyone who knows where they are to call the nearest police station."
She said the men were appearing on a charge of bank robbery.
Yesterday's escape brought to question the safety around court buildings. This is not the first time that prisoners escaped from South African courts.
On November 14 last year, self-confessed child rapist Paul Mokgomane Mofokeng escaped from the holding cells at the Protea magistrate's court. He had just appeared in court and his case was postponed for a high court date.
Mofokeng, 26, escaped from the court allegedly with the help of police. Two officers were arrested but the charges were withdrawn because of lack of evidence.
It took police almost two months to re-arrest him.
Mofokeng was accused of kidnapping and repeatedly raping a six-year-old Mofolo, Soweto, girl for a period of two days.
He then allegedly committed suicide at Johannesburg Prison, a day after he appeared on the same charges at the Protea court.
On June 29 2004, 12 awaiting trial robbery suspects escaped from the Germiston magistrate's court cells. Police later re-arrested four of the fugitives.
The men had overpowered two police officers when they (police) entered their cell.
In January,Sowetan published a report that there were at least 2000 criminals at large in the country after escaping from police custody over two years.
Police statistics released to Sowetan showed that there were 3316 prisoners who had escaped. Police had re-arrested 1159 of them. The statistics showed there were 2157 criminals, some armed and dangerous, who had bolted between 2005 and 2007.