Casino patrons robbed, one killed

MORE than a dozen gunmen robbed scores of casino patrons, killing one of them, after failing to gain access to the money vault in Secunda in Mpumalanga this week.

The incident happened at the Graceland Casino in Secunda and the dead patron was identified as Gitrath Banda, 44, from Johannesburg.

Gamblers and other visitors at the busy casino were ordered to lie on the floor by more than a dozen gunmen on Wednesday night.

The gunmen fired shots in the air and damaged water pipes.

Captain Leonard Hlathi of the Mpumalanga organised crime unit said the gunmen stormed into the casino at about 9.15pm. When they failed to reach the vault they turned on the patrons on the gambling floor.

"The robbers instructed the patrons to lie on the floor and robbed them of their personal belongings, including cellphones and cash.

"As they were leaving the building they robbed another patron of his BMW.

"They escaped in three vehicles, the hijacked BMW, a Toyota bakkie and an Audi.

"At the entrance to the premises they shot and killed Banda, who was in his BMW waiting for the boom to open," he said.

Hlathi said the police were alerted to the incident. On their arrival at the casino the gunmen opened fire on them, injuring two officers.

"Though the police returned fire it is not known if any of the robbers were hit.

"They managed to escape in the three vehicles and the police later found the BMW and Audi abandoned on the Embalenhle-Secunda road," he said.

Hlathi said the bakkie was found abandoned on the Evander-Secunda road.

He also said that after the recovery of the getaway vehicles, it was discovered that cash had been stolen from the casino.

He said the police managed to recover money, which had been hidden in the bushes, and returned it to the casino management.

The Audi and bakkie had false registration plates. The bakkie was reported to have been stolen in Pretoria about a week ago, according to Hlathi.

He appealed to the public to assist the police with their investigations, and urged anyone who might have information to contact their nearest police station, or to call Superintendent Dick Mochitelo on 082-370-0861 or Hlathi on 082-462-0804.