A mob from Cowdray Park suburb in Bulawayo stripped a self-confessed criminal n@ked and beat him to death after he was caught red-handed stealing from a house in the area, police confirmed yesterday.
The angry mob was allegedly chanting that Cowdray Park residents were tired of crime as they bludgeoned the thief with an assortment of weapons at around 3AM on Friday.
The man, who identified himself as Prince Dube of Nyamandlovu when residents demanded to know his name, allegedly broke into Mr Onias Nkomo’s house and stole a gas cylinder and a cell phone.
Mr Nkomo (50) told The Chronicle that he caught the heavily built Dube in the act and a fight ensued.
“We grappled and I was overpowering him when he started choking me. He bit me on the mouth and nose. I also sprained my hand in the tussle,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said he heard noise while he was sleeping and thought it was his son who was trying to sneak in a girlfriend.
“I went and sat on a sofa in the dining room. Dube had carried stuff outside and he returned with a torch. He didn’t see me as he concentrated on trying to disconnect my amplifier,” he said.
“My wife coughed from the bedroom and he panicked. He dashed out of the house and I followed him. I grabbed him from behind but he turned around, wrapped his strong hands around my neck and started choking me. He threatened to stab me if I didn’t let him go.”
Mr Nkomo said he screamed, alerting his wife who then summoned two of their neighbours for help.
“When my neighbours Khulekani Khuphe and Tamandiko Mpofu came, I was still wrestling with Dube on the ground. We teamed up to subdue him and tied his hands and legs. We had taken him into the house when a group of residents arrived baying for his blood,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said the residents demanded that Dube should be brought outside.
He said he does not know what happened after Dube had been released to the residents because he remained in the house while his daughter tended to his wounds.
“I was shocked when a police officer later came into the house informing me that Dube had died,” Mr Nkomo said.
Mr Khuphe said Dube confessed that he had stolen from another house in the same neighbourhood and he led them to where he had hidden the property at a nearby bush.
“Among the loot was a gas cylinder, baby bathing dishes, a bucket with pots, plates and some kitchen utensils. There was commotion. People used various weapons to assault him while others tried to restrain the mob attack,” he said.
Residents who asked not to be named said about 20 people bashed a hapless Dube whose pleas for mercy seemed to make them angrier.
“He was a bloodied mess. They tore off his clothes and hit him with bottles, knobkerries, iron bars, fists and logs,” said a resident.
He said a majority of the residents fled when Dube started gasping for breath.
“They realised he may have been mortally wounded. By the time the police arrived and called an ambulance, the thief was dead,” the resident said.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango confirmed the incident saying police were investigating a suspected murder case but have not arrested anyone.
She said vigilantes would not be tolerated.
Cowdray Park, according to residents, is a crime hotspot because most areas in the suburb do not have electricity.