Masked men rob Mount Nelson guests at gunpoint, smash jewellery display

A gang of masked men robbed guests at the Mount Nelson Hotel just before midnight on Tuesday.
A gang of masked men robbed guests at the Mount Nelson Hotel just before midnight on Tuesday.

Guests at Cape Town's legendary Mount Nelson Hotel were robbed by masked men just before midnight on Tuesday.

The balaclava-wearing attackers stormed into the five-star Gardens hotel and held staff and security guards at gunpoint, police sources told TimesLIVE.

They forced the staff to lie face-down, then used a sledgehammer to smash jewellery display cases in the foyer and took cash from the reception desk.

The men then went into the hotel bar and robbed customers of their cellphones, before fleeing in a Toyota Corolla and a VW Polo.

No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Police spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk said about 15 suspects had threatened the guard at the hotel's main gate with a gun.

"The suspects removed his baton and hand radio, and two of the suspects remained behind with him inside the guard room," he said.

"The two vehicles proceeded to the reception area, where seven of the suspects entered the hotel foyer."

They threatened staff and guests with two firearms and robbed them. "The suspects then started breaking the glass cabinet display windows in the foyer with big hammers and removed jewellery," said Van Wyk.

"They took an undisclosed amount of cash from the cash register. The suspects fled the scene in two vehicles.

"Police investigators immediately activated a multi-disciplinary action team and combed the crime scene area for evidence. Detectives are following up on all leads."

On Wednesday, smashed display cases in the Mount Nelson foyer were covered with paper and paintings, one of which portrayed a smiling Nelson Mandela.

The hotel, which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year, is a favourite for international celebrities visiting Cape Town. Known as the Pink Lady for the colour of its outside walls, it opened on March 6 1899, and was the first hotel in SA to offer hot and cold running water.

According to Wikipedia, its first advertisement in the Cape Times read: “This large and splendid hotel, beautifully situated in the Gardens at the Top of Government Avenue, in the most Airy and Healthy part of Cape Town, offers to Visitors all the comforts of a First-class Hotel at Reasonable Charges.”

The British used the hotel as a headquarters from which to plan their campaign in the Boer War that began in 1899, and in 1925 the Prince of Wales stayed there.

Hotel operations manager Willem du Toit referred TimesLIVE queries about the robbery to Jocelyn Betts, global corporate communications director for Belmond, owner of the Mount Nelson.

Her response will be added when it is received.

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