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‘We’ve got this!’ says CAP chief after hostage rescue

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Gary Bress was minding his own business while waiting his turn to cross a busy intersection where the traffic lights weren’t working. It was 13:15 last Thursday, 9 June in Marlboro, Sandton, near the Gautrain station. Bress, who works for ChaiFM, was on his way to Sandton to meet a friend.

The next thing, he was surrounded by armed men. Before he knew it, he was bound, blindfolded, and shoved into the back of his rented Suzuki and being driven to who knows where. They grabbed his cell phone and switched off his location apps.

This was the beginning of a 10-hour ordeal for Bress, 37, and his close family, in which he would be held for ransom, not knowing if he would live to tell the tale.

Unbeknown to the assailants, a cell phone belonging to Bress’ niece was left lying somewhere in the car, which would be the device that would bring Community Active Protection (CAP) and the police closer to finding the kidnapped man.

It had a family tracking application that enabled the crime fighting team to pinpoint the vicinity of where the Johannesburg man was being held.

The assailants had dumped the vehicle on the side of a road somewhere in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, near Benoni.

Bress was then taken to a shack in an informal settlement in the township, where he was tied up and kept blindfolded for hours.

“First, they tried to access my online bank account on my cell phone and when they realised the one account had no money, they called my sister demanding cash for my release,” Bress told the SA Jewish Report this week from the comfort of his home.

They gave him 20 seconds to call his sister, Robyn Bress, 44.

When Robyn got the call at work, she thought it was a joke at first when he said. ‘Robyn, I’ve been kidnapped’.”

She told the SA Jewish Report, “I thought it was some kind of sick joke until I heard the men telling me that I would never see my brother again unless I paid them R20 000.”

A frantic and panic-stricken Robyn sprang into action, first calling her mother and then CAP and the Community Security Organisation.

CAP raced to fetch her, and took her to its headquarters to embark on their urgent mission of finding and bringing home her brother.

In no time, a war room and crime-specific joint operation was set up. CAP, together with a multitask team comprising the Provincial Serious and Violent Crimes Unit of the South African Police Services (SAPS), a specialised hostage negotiating team, crime intelligence, and various tactical teams hastily mobilised a search for the missing man.

“Relationships we have built up over years with the SAPS helped us to fast-track and mobilise the search,” said CAP Chief Executive Mark van Jaarsveld.

CAP officials agreed that it was like finding a needle in a haystack, but they were instrumental in rescuing Bress alive and unharmed from a locked shack at the back of a dwelling several hours after the kidnapping.

Using a sophisticated network of informants and technology, CAP and police were able to identify the area where Bress was last located roughly as Daveyton. They placed the victim’s dumped vehicle under observation while undercover surveillance and operational tactical teams continued to work the area.

A reward was offered for information, and news of this spread fast. Tactical teams were able to hone in on the area located as a number of shacks within a relatively short distance from the vehicle.

Bress’ sister, with help and guidance from CAP Solutions Director Lloyd Broude, continued to negotiate with the kidnappers.

“CAP was beyond amazing,” she said. “Lloyd made me feel at ease, and helped me stay calm to focus on what was important – getting my brother back in one piece.”

Meanwhile news of Bress’ disappearance reached far and wide, and community members prayed for his safe return on WhatsApp groups.

Following intense detective work and a major team effort involving tasked informants, CAP Chief Operating Officer Sean Jammy said the environment was “locked down to monitor-vehicle movements at entrances”, which were kept under surveillance as the team continued to search.

Bress was finally tracked down between 22:00 and 23:00.

“When I finally saw a familiar face from the community, I knew I was safe,” a relieved Bress told the SA Jewish Report this week.

“I have no idea how I remained calm throughout the ordeal,” he said. “I switched into a mode of speaking to them as if they were my friends, showing them respect the whole time, knowing that I needed to listen and comply with everything they said,” he said.

“Time didn’t exist, but it felt like the longest day of my life.”

On the whole, he said the kidnappers were calm, getting agitated only when Robyn’s phone was busy or when they tried to obtain Bress’ passwords to his email addresses which he claimed he didn’t know.

Around nightfall, when the temperature began to drop, Bress was left alone in the shack, and he found himself quietly praying.

“I prayed and prayed,” he said.

He grew fearful when he heard loud noises outside and the door being stormed, not knowing what was happening. Once he recognised Van Jaarsveld’s face he felt “pure relief”.

Bress was reunited with his family at CAP headquarters. They embraced each other with tears of “deep gratitude”, and were attended to by Hatzolah.

Robyn said that during the ordeal, she felt “anxious”. However, she said, “Now I feel enormous relief that he was unharmed and returned after the most agonising 10 hours. I cannot believe this happened. It felt like a movie.”

Police made two arrests at the scene, and more are expected to follow as the case is still under investigation.

“It was a significant team with a positive outcome. At the end of the day, it’s awesome to know we’ve got this,” said Jammy.

“Though incidents such as this occur extremely rarely, we understand people’s fear, and have some practical tips on how to protect yourself,” he said.

For starters, CAP has developed a personal safety app (the CAP app), which allows members to insert their destination and expected time of arrival. If they don’t check in as scheduled, the CAP team can be notified. This, combined with other smartphone apps such as Life360 and applying common sense such as checking in with friends and family, are a practical way to create comfort.

CAP was established in 2006 to counter all threats of violent crime against our communities. “We set out with the vision of developing a world-class, professionally run communal organisation with real expertise housed within our structures to answer any call, act swiftly, and achieve a positive outcome when there’s a need. We’re grateful to Hashem and our communities for blessing us with the tools we need to do the work we do,” Jammy said.

If you suspect any foul play, please contact CAP immediately on 0861 227 227.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lauren

    Jun 17, 2022 at 11:24 am

    Thanks and blessings to ALL who made this possible.
    BH 🙏🙏🙏🙏

  2. Pam

    Jun 23, 2022 at 9:18 am

    Gosh, what an ordeal. So happy the outcome was so wonderful. Well done to the amazing team involved and all the help from all the calm, cool and collected brains involved.

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