Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Police in KwaZulu-Natal have launched a massive manhunt after five dangerous awaiting-trial prisoners escaped from under their noses on Tuesday afternoon.

It's alleged that the prisoners tricked the cops, who were transporting them from the Umhlali magistrate's court, into opening the door for them.

They pretended that one of them had become gravely ill.

Police spokesman Director Phindile Hadebe said the police were working around the clock to rearrest the escapees.

They were facing charges of murder, attempted murder and robbery.

She said the police vehicle was taking 10 prisoners back to the police cells when they escaped.

"The prisoners banged against the window, indicating that one of them was sick," Hadebe said. "The officer pulled over and opened the door to offer assistance.

"The suspects shoved the door open and escaped."

Hadebe said the escapees were all dangerous.

She urged members of the community to assist police in rearresting them.

"But we urge members of the public not to try to catch these men because they are very dangerous," Hadebe said.

"People should contact the nearest police station if they come across the escapees.".

Hadebe explained that police are also investigating the circumstances surrounding the escape.

"We are investigating the mystery surrounding the escape - and we will find the escapees and send them back to jail."

MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele meanwhile commended the police after members of a heist gang were arrested.

"The fact that the police arrested two people linked to the cash heist and to recover three cars is an indication that we are not playing," Cele said.

The robbers struck in four regions on the same day - Isiphingo, Amanzimtoti, south of Durban, Kranskop, on the North Coast, and Ezingolweni, on the South Coast.

He said police would ensure that all thugs spend their days in jail.