'Dad, we have been hijacked and they took my baby away'
Little girl killed during shootout after Durban hijacking
The image of Sadia Sukhraj – lifeless and bloodied on a hospital gurney – will forever be seared into the mind of her grandfather, Prem.
The nine-year-old had been with her father, Shailendra, on a school run on Monday when he was pulled from the car while in the driveway of a Shallcross home in Durban by three men, who then sped off with Sadia.
“The hijackers drove away with the nine-year-old child. The hijacked vehicle was pursued by the child’s father‚ and then there was a shooting‚ so we don’t know exactly how the child got shot and by whom‚” Chatsworth community policing forum chairperson Jakes Singh said.
Grandfather Prem, a 65-year-old pastor, recounting the family tragedy, said he received a chilling call from his son, also a pastor.
“He just said: ‘Dad, we have been hijacked and they took my baby away’,” he said.
He would only realise later that his granddaughter had died from a single gunshot wound in a nearby hospital, her final moments likely a flurry of panic and pain.
“I saw her there and that is an image that will never leave me … I don’t think it will,” Prem Sukhraj said, tears welling in his eyes.The hijackers hit a truck and lost control of the vehicle in a nearby park. One of the men was arrested by an off-duty police officer as he fled the scene; another died near the vehicle and a third man remains at large.The injured girl, found lying in the car, is understood to have been rushed to the hospital where she later died.
As relatives streamed into the hospital‚ hysterical cries of anguish reverberated through the accident and emergency unit.
A distraught man collapsed into the arms of another as he sobbed, moments after Sadia had been declared dead.
“I had lost my son 16 years ago and when she was born she took his place in a way. She really was the star in all of our lives,” her grandfather added.
“She was a bubbly child and she was a backup singer in church. She was so cheerful and everyone loved her and she really loved the Lord.”Sukhraj said the hijackers were responsible for ending his granddaughter’s life.
“These guys have taken a child’s life away and that is what is most sad. We are law-abiding citizens and we are good people and they have done this to us. It’s not fair,’ he said.Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the investigation into the hijacking and shooting remained at a sensitive stage.
She could not reveal who had shot at the car, saying it was still being probed. She would not comment on reports that an off-duty policeman fired shots at the hijacked car.
She said a wide-scale search for the suspect who remains at large had begun in earnest, and that dockets of murder and hijacking had been registered from investigation.
Meanwhile, Petros Ngubane, the driver of the truck into which the hijackers crashed, said he had been looking for an address when a speeding car collided into his truck.
“It was a silver-grey car and then it hit my truck on the side. I then alighted to see the damage caused on the truck. While I was standing there, the car sped off and came around again [as the road was a cul de sac] and it parked behind the truck.
“When I went them to ask if they saw the damage they caused on the truck, they tried to run me over and hit me on the leg.”Ngubane said they tried to drive off but the driver realised they couldn’t as a crowd was approaching and he fled. He said he didn’t realise that the girl was in the car at the time.
Shallcross community police forum chairperson Mahendra Lillkan said the incident was the first hijacking in the area in recent months.
“The community is shocked and saddened by this incident. We just don’t know what to say. General housebreakings have been continuing but hijackings seemed to be under control. We are surprised by what happened this morning‚” he said.