Beach body count climbs

The Strandfontein CPF, SAPS and neighbourhood-watch volunteers patrol the isolated and bushy areas along Baden Powell Drive and surrounds where several bodies have been found in recent months.

As the body count rises in the sands and bushes along Baden Powell Drive and in the Wolfgat Nature Reserve, police have repeated warnings to the public to avoid these areas, especially when it is dark.

The discovery of several bodies in this area in recent months has fuelled rumours that some of the deaths are the work of a serial killer, but police say there is no evidence to support such claims.

However, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz says he has asked the provincial police commissioner for a report outlining the SAPS plan to “address this pattern” and will take the matter further if he’s not happy with it.

“Should I not be satisfied with the response, or after giving SAPS time to properly intervene, I will then refer the matter to the Western Cape Police Ombudsman for investigation.”

Following the recent rape of a woman jogger in the area, Captain Ian Williams, spokesman for the Mitchell’s Plain police, has urged people to stay in groups when taking part in recreational activities.

“There’s safety in numbers,” he said. “We are in discussion with the councillors to set up signs along the beach to note it being a crime hot spot.”

According to the police, the woman was running along Beach Road, in Muizenberg, on Sunday at 6pm, when two men pushed her into bushes and took turns raping her. They ran off when a car stopped nearby.

In August, Neels Shabalala, after a weeks-long search, found the decapitated body of his partner, Patricia Williams, in the Strandfontein bush (“Man finds partner’s decapitated body,” Plainsman September 2)

In September, the bodies of a man and a woman were found in Wolfgat Nature Reserve. Police say the cause of death is unknown, but the bodies were found in an advanced state of decomposition (“Police seize firearms, ammunition,” Plainsman, September 23”).

In March, Law Enforcement Marine Unit officers arrested four men caught dumping bodies on the beach. Officers were patrolling Lukannon Drive in Bayview when they spotted a bakkie on the beach opposite Nautilus Way. Four men were walking towards the beach with the bodies of two men covered with blankets. A third body was found in the bakkie.

The victims appeared to have been stabbed or shot to death (“Four men caught dumping bodies,” Plainsman, April 1).

The public should stay alert along this isolated stretch of beach and bush on Baden Powell Drive, Captain Williams warned.

“Robberies and car-jacking have been known to occur at the beaches. Parking along this beachfront, especially at night, is dangerous, but attacks have also occurred during the day.”

The police patrolled the area regularly and had made several arrests, he said. Robberies there were often opportunity-driven crimes.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said that while City Law Enforcement also patrolled the area, it was not possible to have a “consistent presence”.

Mayor Dan Plato said the City tried to install more street lights and replace broken ones in crime hot spots, but cable theft hampered those efforts.

“I have requested a proposal… to determine the feasibility of installing high-mast lighting along that stretch of road,” he said.

Strandfontein Community Police Forum chairwoman Sandy Schuter said they had raised the issue repeatedly over the years.

“We cannot continue to apply pressure on the policing aspect. We have to point out that the problematic area is very bushy and very dark. We can’t see right through the dense bushes on patrol,” she said.

“We have requested several times for the dunes and area to be flattened and the bush to be cut down in order for us to observe what is happening in the area. The responses were that the vegetation and wildlife need to be preserved.”

The area was dangerous without lighting and the CPF had warned the public to stay clear after dark, she said, but people had still been found parking in the area, eating dinner or having sex.

“The security agencies, both SAPS and Law Enforcement, are very visible on this stretch multiple times a day, and this includes the volunteers. We need to change our approach when addressing this; we can’t apply the same system every year and expect a different outcome. We need to put our heads together,” she said.

Abie Isaacs, Mitchell’s Plain CPF chairman, said provincial, national and local governments needed to create a plan to make the area safe again, and he added that there had been talk in the past about turning Baden Powell Drive into a tourist destination.

“Yes, it may be a SAPS matter,” he said, “but we need a multifaceted approach.”

He suggested using people, paid from a government work-creation programme, to patrol the area.