ATM bombers gun down top police officer

McKeed Kotlolo

McKeed Kotlolo

A Pretoria police inspector was shot dead by heavily armed gunmen minutes after an ATM was bombed yesterday.

Inspector Jaco Botha, 37, of the Villieria police was shot in the head and lost control of the marked police vehicle he was driving when a gang of about ten men opened fire on him and his partner.

The attack occurred minutes after an Absa ATM at an Engen garage at the Super Rand shopping complex in Kilnerpark, was bombed at about 3am.

Inspector Klaas van der Kooi of the Brooklyn police said it all started when police received a tip-off about people tampering with an ATM at the Engen garage.

Botha and his partner, as well as members of the dog unit, responded to the call.

"On arrival at the scene, a bomb went off at the ATM," Van der Kooi said.

"It was immediately followed by automatic gun fire at the police vehicles. Inspector Botha was shot in the head and his vehicle spun out of control, hit a brick wall and overturned. He died at the scene."

He added that the group of about ten gunmen then hijacked a bakkie and fled the scene in four vehicles.

The getaway cars, a black BMW, white Audi, the hijacked VW Caddy bakkie, and a white sedan, were last seen taking the Zambezi off-ramp on the N1 freeway.

"The gunmen took an undisclosed amount of cash before fleeing the scene," Van der Kooi said.

Head of the client service centre at Villieria, Captain Michelle Doubell, described Botha as "a highly dedicated policeman who loved his job and was also loved by his colleagues".

Doubell said Botha's partner escaped with slight injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The people living in the area around the shopping complex were woken by a loud bang followed by volleys of automatic and handgun fire.

Wayne Park, who stays near the complex, described the situation as a "mini world war".

"We were sleeping when suddenly there was a huge blast and heavy gun sounds like that of AK-47 assault rifles," Park said.

He said they tried to look through the window but were forced to hide by the "deafening sounds of AK-47 rifles that sounded very close to us. It was terrifying".

Botha is survived by his wife Lunet and his six-year-old son Ulrich.