police hunt for three dangerous escapees

MPUMALANGA police have launched a massive manhunt for three dangerous prisoners who escaped from the Kinross police station holding cells.

The escapees allegedly cut through the steel bars in the roof to dash to freedom. The escape took place during the visiting hour after they had allegedly cut a hole through the steel roof of the courtyard on Monday.

The escapees are Jabulani Mahlangu, 38, arrested for allegedly strangling and hanging a Kinross woman and then making it look like a suicide during a housebreaking last month; Benedicto Situ, 39, a Mozambican national who allegedly hired hit men to kill his wife a year ago, who was arrested for conspiracy to murder, house robbery and fraud; Thembelani Babi, 25, who was arrested for armed robbery at a supermarket. Babi allegedly fled with cash and airtime vouchers after the robbery in February.

Captain Leonard Hlathi said police had launched a massive manhunt for the three.

He appealed to the public to assist police in their search. But he warned the public not to confront any of the escapees because "they are very dangerous".

He said Mahlangu was arrested for the murder of Sibongile Masina, 35, on March 13. He also allegedly stole electrical appliances.

"He allegedly strangled her and then tied an electric extension cord around her neck to make it look like she committed suicide. Investigations, however, revealed that she was murdered," said Hlathi.

Mahlangu had served numerous prison terms for theft and robbery and had allegedly committed the murder two weeks after he was released on parole.

Situ, a Mozambican with a fraudulently-obtained South African ID, allegedly hired two hit-men to kill his wife and remove some items from the house to make it look like a robbery.

Hlathi also said that on arrival at Situ's house, the hitmen discovered that Masina was known to them. Instead of killing her, the hitmen assaulted her and stole goods and the couple's car. The vehicle was recovered abandoned a day after the incident, with the keys in the ignition.

Hlathi said one of the hitmen was later arrested for a different case. While in prison, he told police that he was one of the hired would-be killers.

As a result, Situ was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder, house robbery and fraud.

Hlathi said anyone with information about the three escapees should contact their nearest police station or the investigating officer, Detective-Sergeant Sam Kele, on 083-226-8067.