Police Pursue Stock Theft Syndicate

Diligent and relentless detective work by the police stock theft units of Okahandja, Otjiwarongo and Gobabis resulted in the retrieval of 21 head of stolen cattle, while the units are also in hot pursuit of the ring leaders of a syndicate that has so far this year stolen more than 250 head of cattle worth some N$1.2 million in the Okahandja area.

Confirming the imminent arrests, Detective Seargeant William Gray of the Okahandja stock theft unit told New Era yesterday: “Some of the stolen cattle were spotted at auctions and in feeding pens and in one case we came across false ear tags on some of the cattle. The investigation has reached a sensitive stage and we have widened our circle of investigation to the Grootfontein area where we expect to make a breakthrough soon.”

At the time of going to press two of the cattle rustlers had already been arrested. “The suspects will appear in court soon and in the meantime we are hot on the heels of the masterminds of the syndicate,” said Gray.

The combined crackdown – which involved tracing cellphone numbers and patrolling roads north of Okahandja – comes in the wake of the police uncovering 125 false permits issued to cattle rustlers using permit numbers of elderly people in the Ovitoto area in March this year.

A major breakthrough in investigations was made after the Okahandja stock theft unit, with the help of other units, went on full alert at the end of March after numerous cattle went missing from four different farms.

“Late in the evening of May 5 we were ready to strike after receiving a tip-off about a suspicious white truck. When the driver was stopped on a dirt road north of Okahandja we discovered the truck was loaded with stolen cattle. “After giving us false information about the ownership of the truck as well as the permit to transport the animals, both the driver and his passenger were interrogated and later formally arrested. The police received some cellphone numbers from the two suspects and have been using these numbers to gather more information,” said Gray.

Gray said the police were also trying to apprehend herders involved in the thefts, as in most cases the herders ran away when the police got too close for comfort for them. The recovered livestock were returned to their owners this week. Okahandja farmers Dicky Kotzeacute and Lisa du Plessis were very relieved to get back some of their prized animals when New Era spoke to them yesterday.

Kotzeacute got back 21 of his 36 cattle which were stolen in January while some of Du Plessis’s cattle were retrieved recently. According to Kotzeacute, the Okahandja stock theft unit worked closely with the units of Otjiwarongo and Gobabis and even used mobile kraals to gather cattle. Even though the ear tags were replaced, the police could identify the brand which in some cases could only be read after the hair of the animal was shorn off. Yesterday the Namibian Agricultural Union aised farmers to report all stock theft cases immediately to the police and supply them with as much information as possible of the stolen animals in order to ease their work. By Deon Schlechter

Source : New Era