Johannesburg – For more than two years Leon de Bruin tracked the gang that burgled his Bedfordview house, hoping one day they would slip up.
They did, and due to his detective work, the alleged gang could be facing multiple charges, for crimes across Gauteng.
From CCTV footage gathered from other victims, he was able to follow the gang as they carried out their two-year long crime spree across Joburg.
The criminals he was chasing are known by two names. They are either known as the “Estate Agents Gang” or the “House for Sale Gang”.
The gang is believed to comprise of usually four members. Three of the members caught on CCTV appear to be three large middle-aged ladies who commit their crimes dressed in breezy summer dresses and wide-brimmed picnic hats. The fourth member of the gang is a male, who stays in the car and acts as the getaway driver.
Their modus operandi is they target houses with “For Sale” signs outside.
They convince a domestic worker to allow them into the property, saying they are interested in buying the property.
“Sometimes they will even pretend to call the owner of the house in front of the domestic worker,” said De Bruin.
Then, as the domestic worker gives one of the women a tour of the house, the two others steal valuable items and place them in their over-sized handbags.
They target laptops, jewellery, and even whisky bottles.
Victims have referred to them as being very nice and polite.
Over the past two years they have struck in places as far as Springs, Rayton, Benoni, Edenvale, Primrose and Kensington.
The gang is also known to have used three different cars, a white Polo, a white Audi, and a Toyota Fortuner.
In September 2017 De Bruin, who is a member of the Bedfordview CPF, was victim.
It was then that De Bruin vowed he would catch them.
He used social media to find other victims of the gang. They sent him CCTV footage and over time, he built up a file on the gang, gathering various case numbers from crimes.
Then, on one of the clips, he watched them make the mistake he waited so long for.
“We managed to get footage where you can see them removing the registration plate,” said De Bruin. “Using this, we were able to identify the owner of the vehicle.”
He was able to track the owner of the vehicle’s movements over the past 18 months.
But it wasn’t to be De Bruin’s detective work that was to result in the capture of the alleged Estate Agents Gang.
It happened through a stroke of luck.
On October 4, a gang using a similar modus operandi to the Estate Agents Gang tried to gain access to a residence in Goedeburg, in Benoni.
This time the domestic worker at the residence became suspicious and alerted a security company.
A patrol car from Community Monitoring Services (CMS) was despatched.
“We were driving there when this white Polo drove past with no licence plates. We decided to follow them,” said the general manager of CMS, Gerrit Van Heerden.
The patrol car followed them to the nearby Sheridan shopping centre, in Farrarmere.
“There we boxed them in and called the SAPS,” said Van Heerden.
The alleged gang apparently acted calm and kept asking what “this was all about”. The police arrested the occupants of the Polo, two women and a man.
They were allegedly able to link them to CCTV footage taken from a recent burglary in Farrarmere.
On Thursday, De Bruin and members of CMS learnt that a number plate recovered from inside the car, was the same as the one De Bruin had watched being removed on CCTV footage.
This is the smoking gun that could tie the alleged suspects to scores of crimes across Gauteng.
One of them is a possible house robbery where a gun was used.
The police are hoping De Bruin’s detective work will strengthen their case against the alleged gang.
The suspects are back in court on December 4.
“That is awesome, it is just so gratifying to know these bast***s have been caught,” said De Bruin>chaosafrica