bloody sunday that shook a forgotten suburb

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

It was a lazy winter's Sunday morning for the residents of Mordaunt Street in Jeppestown, east of the Johannesburg city centre.

Women and children were walking to church in full uniform while men sat under the trees finishing what they started the previous night.

Everything seemed normal in the forgotten suburb - that was until residents heard a gunshot.

Seconds later later more shots followed and this time there were no breaks in between. Everybody dived for cover, hoping that the guns were not pointed in their direction.

After a gun battle lasting hours 12 people lay dead at 54Mordaunt Street, the house now dubbed the "horror house".

The drama began when a gang of about 20 men robbed a Pick n Pay store in Honeydew on June 25 2006 at about 9am.

They pistol-whipped a customer and threatened the staff before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash. During the robbery one customer was shot in the leg.

In no time police arrived on the scene but the all robbers, except one, managed to escape.

Thembinkosi Tshabalala was arrested and he led the police to a house in Jeppestown, where the thugs were to divide the loot.

Police from Johannesburg and the West Rand dog units and flying squads entered the house in a bid to arrest the gang but were met by a hail of bullets.

Four policemen were shot dead and several others wounded.

For an hour police exchanged fire with the robbers who stood their ground. The police retreated after a time and called for backup.

Special task force members and other police officers from nearby stations arrived on the scene. Emergency personnel had set up a mobile hospital with at least 10 stretchers.

Negotiators tried to strike a deal with the robbers but to no avail. At that time the "horror house" was surrounded by the police. After four hours the gang surrendered.

Fourteen gang members were arrested and have been convicted of armed robbery with aggravating circumstances, multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.