POLICE in Victoria Falls have arrested seven people, two of them women, from Harare who allegedly went on a theft spree targeting cellphone handsets during the period of the Victoria Falls Carnival.

Police confirmed the arrest of Bothwell Makombe, Audrey Simbarashe Chimonyo, Tinashe Mabhiza, Brendon Musimurimwa, Rutendo Susan Makoni and Dickson Kudakwashe Manema, and the recovery of 21 cellphone handsets with a combined value of over US$14 000.

The three-day carnival was held between Friday night and Sunday night.

The suspects were driving a Mercedes Benz and were booked at a private house in Mkhosana suburb from where they were launching their raids on unsuspecting revellers during the carnival.

The suspects bought VIP entry tickets into the carnival which gave them access to every part of the event.

They would steal cellphones and put them in a cooler box which they allegedly carried as if it had beverages.

Alert police officers arrested the seven following a tip-off.

“On the 30th of April police arrested several criminals in connection with the crime of theft and several items were recovered including 21 cellphones. There was a team of mobile criminals who were driving a Mercedes Benz from Harare and they were lodging at a certain house during the carnival,” said Matabeleland North police spokesperson Inspector Glory Banda.

Unlike during previous years when there were numerous theft cases during the carnival as thieves took advantage of the number of police, this time there was a heavy presence of police officers both inside and outside the venue.

Suspected cellphone thieves who drove in a Mercedes Benz from Harare to steal from revelers at the Vic Falls Carnival

Some were in the city centre making it difficult for malcontents to cause unnecessary traffic jams or commit crime.

Some hotels were sealed off from the general public and at Elephant Hills Resort, the venue for the carnival, non-resident guests were not allowed entry into hotel premises.

Police and hotel security mounted a roadblock near the gate and had a list of all guests booked at the hotel.

At the venue, a news crew observed that police never left the car park and were patrolling inside the venue, some in plain clothes. In the previous years criminals would break car windows to access valuables.

Police commended members of the public for playing a key role in ensuring criminal activities are nipped in the bud.

“We would like to commend members of the public for partnering us in the fight against crime. The onus to reduce the fear of crime is incumbent upon members of the public and police. We also encourage people to embrace smart policing and use technology such as using CCTVs and alarms at their properties. When retiring to bed, people should switch off interior lights and switch on exterior ones,” said Insp Banda.

The suspects are assisting police with investigations.

Meanwhile, police yesterday afternoon applied for further detention of the suspects.

The application was granted by Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Linda Dzvene as investigations are not yet complete.

The suspects are facing counts of theft, possession of suspected stolen property and attempted robbery, after they also tried to rob a tourist of his gadgets near Three Monkeys Restaurant at night.

“This was an application for further detention, that the accused were arrested without a warrant of apprehension and police need more time to finish investigations and would need 48 hours. The offences were committed at the carnival and 21 cellphone handsets were stolen. Seven have been identified while the other 14 are yet to be identified.

“The accused reside in Harare and the court agrees with the State that this is a complex case and the application is granted. The accused are to be further detained from 2 May 2023 to 4 May 2023 and they will appear in court on 5 May 2023,” said the magistrate.

Mr Gibson Jakuosi of Mvhiringi and Associates represented the seven suspects and had argued that the State should have applied for remand as police were given enough time to investigate the case.

Mr Bheki Tshabalala represented the State in court during the application. Chronicle

By Power

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