Oscar Muzinda Chronicle Reporter
AN abandoned car in Bulawayo’s Paddonhurst suburb led curious police officers to track down its owner, only to stumble on stolen property at the man’s house in Kumalo.
Some of the property was stashed in the ceiling while other goods were buried underground in the yard, leading to the arrest of one of the city’s most dangerous robbers.
Police yesterday said they also searched John Raphael Masuku’s rural homestead in Ntabazinduna where they recovered more stolen property that needed a truck to transport back to Bulawayo.
Residents of Paddonhurst, who tipped off the police after noticing a suspicious vehicle moving around their neighbourhood, did not realise that they were helping the cops to catch a “big fish”.
Masuku has previously been charged with 19 counts of theft of motor vehicles and a count of robbery with the state lining up more than 50 witnesses against him, one of whom was robbed of important documents pertaining to the case.
Reports in 2003 also described Masuku as a notorious carjacker who was facing charges of stealing nine luxury vehicles worth over $9,7 million at that time.
Masuku’s latest troubles started on Sunday morning when he was driving around Paddonhurst suburb in a Honda Fit with two other men whose identities could not be immediately established yesterday.
Suspicious residents reported them to neighbourhood watch committee members who alerted the police.
When police approached the trio, they abandoned the vehicle and fled.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango said the vehicle was towed away and used to track the owner. She said police then discovered stolen property including laptops, generators, solar panels and plasma television sets at Masuku’s house in Kumalo.
Some of the goods were hidden in the ceiling while others were buried in his yard.
“One of the residents alerted the neighbourhood committee members who made a report to the police. Police deployed officers to investigate the case and on seeing the officers, the trio, who were in a Honda Fit, escaped leaving the car,” said Insp Simango.
She said the police later established that Masuku was a well-known suspected carjacker.
Insp Simango said the engine on the vehicle did not belong to the car.
“We discovered who the owner of the car was and our officers went to the suspect’s residence and found property which he failed to account for,’’ she said.
Insp Simango said some property was also recovered at Masuku’s rural home in Ntabazinduna and a truck was used to bring it back to Bulawayo.
The incident comes in the wake of the arrest of nine suspects accused of a spate of robberies and rape in Cowdray Park and Luveve suburbs. Two teachers and another woman were gang raped at Luveve High School on Saturday night when the suspects raided the institution and stole household goods.