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Hijacked mom warns motorists after being taken hostage

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A Sandton mother of two was last week taken on a joyride from hell after being hijacked at gunpoint by two attackers at her local shopping mall in broad daylight.

Nicky Sher is always vigilant when it comes to her safety. Last Tuesday, 12 October, however, she was caught completely off guard when her assailants took her hostage as they made their getaway from the Morning Glen Shopping Centre in Gallo Manor.

“It was one of my worst nightmares come true,” she told the SA Jewish Report this week.

“It’s a different story being hijacked and left stranded without your car, that’s horrific enough, but being forcibly taken in the car takes it to another level.”

Sher arrived at the centre at about 12:20 to do a quick shop at the centre’s Pick n Pay and Mica Hardware. She parked outside the hardware store, and remembers thinking that there weren’t the usual number of eager car guards offering to help her when she emerged with her trolley a short while later. In fact, she didn’t see any.

“I thought that I could have done with the help as I had a heavy load of parcels which needed to be put into the boot of my car,” she said.

She also didn’t see any security guards on patrol, something that went through her mind fleetingly.

After offloading her trolley, she was about to climb into the driver’s seat of her seven-year-old white Mercedes Benz CLA 200, when the two men “came out of nowhere”. They somehow forced her into the passenger side of the vehicle as one man took the driver’s seat while the other one sat behind with a gun pointed towards her.

“I started screaming for help. I screamed and screamed,” she said, but the men fled the centre at high speed with no regard for whatever was in their way, bumping into things.

“I saw a flash of a car guard and another man who I believe reported his suspicions to centre management.”

In the blink of an eye, a petrified Sher found herself trapped inside her own car with two crazed men who threated to shoot her if she continued to scream. The driver made a sharp right onto Bowling Avenue, driving at high speed.

“I continued to scream, I didn’t know what else to do,” she said, pointing out that in hindsight, she knows it wasn’t wise as the men continued to threaten to shoot her.

A few hundred meters after Kelvin Drive, in the direction of South Road, Morningside, she saw a metro traffic police road block up ahead, and felt hope and relief. “I thought Hashem was watching over me, and I was going to be rescued. I even tried to open the door, which caused the driver to become very agitated,” she said.

Her relief soon turned to disappointment and dismay when the police seemingly did nothing to stop her attackers from hurtling away after they had half-heartedly tried to flag the speeding vehicle down. “That’s when I knew I was on my own. Strangely, I became calm at that moment,” she said, even though her life flashed before her.

“It’s going to sound weird, but all I could think about was Mark Kopelowitz, who was murdered the day before.” (Kopelowitz was killed after walking into an armed robbery taking place at his jewellery store at the Centurion Mall on Monday, 11 October.)

“I thought yesterday it was Mark, today it’s going to be me,” she said. “I tried to calm down because screaming and trying to open the car door hadn’t worked. I begged them to let me out, told them I was a mother, hadn’t seen their faces, and couldn’t identify them.”

She was forced to hand over her handbag with all its belongings inside. They wanted the pin numbers of her credit cards.

“I couldn’t remember one of them, and they said they’d shoot me if I told them the wrong numbers,” she said.

She assumed they’d drive to the nearest ATM and keep her hostage until they had withdrawn as much money as they could. Instead, they hastily stopped the car on the corner of Marlboro Drive and Lilium Street, Marlboro, and told her to get out.

She ran towards the nearest garage and frantically told the owner she had been hijacked.

It was then that she called her husband, Clifford, and her two daughters.

“It’s a family trauma when something like this happens. Everybody is shaken,” she said.

She decided to tell her story as a warning to other motorists to be extra vigilant, especially when approaching one’s vehicle at shopping malls.

She believes they targeted her for her car.

Sher took part in a Zoom security meeting with centre management last week, and relayed her story. She was told that according to CCTV footage, her attackers watched her drive into the centre and had casually followed her to see where she parked. They waited for her on a low wall in the underground parking. They wore peak caps so as not to be recognised by cameras.

“I know I had protection from above because I escaped relatively unscathed and I’m here to tell the tale. But we get so complacent especially at the centres we go to often. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, get in your car, lock the doors, and drive away quickly without bothering with things like Bluetooth and music.”

She said that since the incident, she has been overwhelmed with support from total strangers, family and friends. “It has been life affirming.”

Shopping malls have become hotspots in Johannesburg, and this isn’t the first time that hijackings have taken place at this centre.

CAP Chief Operating Officer Sean Jammy said this week, “This unfortunate incident underlines the need for competent security to be in place in any environment we frequent. To mitigate the threat and impact of this type of incident, we encourage all community members to practice situational awareness. Ensure that your family can track you via a cell phone platform, and that vehicles have tracking installed. Try and let people know where you are, and what time you should be returning.

“Be aware of risks in your environment. If anything looks suspicious, treat it as a threat and remove yourself from harm’s way. Most importantly, create an alert as early as possible, and train your family and those that care about you to do the same.”

At the time of going to press, the centre management hadn’t responded to questions about increasing security measures.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Joel Goldstein

    Oct 21, 2021 at 11:49 am

    The centre agents Broll dont give a hoot about security. My car was stolen a few years ago and all the car guards disappeared at the time so they know what goes on.

  2. Ian Barnett

    Oct 21, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Hi
    What an absolutely horrible, horrible experience for Nicky! Very glad she’s ok. Been through an armed home invasion myself so can empathise. As my family and I frequent the same shopping centre and as I have a retail property background, I called the centre manager (found her details on the centre’s website) to share some thoughts and ideas for improvement to security, in a constructive manner. She was very willing to chat and invited me to send her an email with my suggestions, which I have done. Would be great if customers of the centre also call to express their concerns. Happy to take your calls on 079 522 6933 and share what I sent to her.
    Be vigilant and keep safe.
    Ian Barnett

  3. les Cohn

    Oct 21, 2021 at 10:20 pm

    earlier this year my female friend was attacked and knocked down by a tall well dressed Black male when she tried to withdraw money. He was standing near the ATMs.Highly experienced he got her card and saw the pin as she entered it and within 20 mins had withdrawn close to 70,000 at 3 different places. He’d bribed the ‘security guard’ who stands at the entrance to ‘disappear’. it was recorded on the center’s cams and when she reported to the center management they were able to see the whole scene. it seems the center is being targeted – possibly due to its proximity to Alex and easy getaway opportunities?

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