One of two knife-wielding muggers who robbed four rock climbers at Skoorsteenkop more than a year ago is behind bars -– betrayed by the expensive cellphone he stole.
After entering into a plea agreement with the state, Siphelele Ntebe, who was charged with aggravated robbery, was sentenced on Wednesday July 27 at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, to a 12-year jail term.
When Ntebe had rushed at Hout Bay resident Hilton Davies and his three friends with a knife while shouting “Sit down! Sit down!” on Saturday June 20, last year, he could never have imagined that his loot would lead to his downfall.
Earlier that day, Mr Davies and his friend, Guy Paterson-Jones, had been preparing for their climb up Skoorsteenkop when they met two unknown climbers, Richard Walker and Steve Porter.
“We introduced ourselves, and I immediately liked them and knew we’d become friends,” Mr Davies said. The four headed up Skoorsteenkop and Mr Davies and Mr Paterson-Jones found themselves at Stairway to Heaven around noon.
At the top, Mr Paterson-Jones mentioned to Mr Davies that “someone watched him climb”.
This alarmed Mr Davies because muggings are common on the mountain – in fact some mountain bikers even call the trail back to Imizamo Yethu the “mugger’s route” because robbers take it after accosting their victims on the cycle track up to the Constantiaberg mast.
After some top-roping, Mr Davies and Mr Paterson-Jones made their way back to their backpacks and Mr Davies’s small dog, Gizmo, at the foot of Stairway to Heaven. Mr Walker and Mr Porter joined them for some tea and sandwiches, and, while chatting away, they noticed two men hiking up the muggers’ route.
Although aware of the two men, they proceeded with the climb shortly afterwards but before they knew it, the men were headed directly towards them.
“I noticed Gizmo standing dead still, with her ears up and gazing into the distance where we had seen the men, and I thought they were still far off, but then Gizmo turned 90 degrees and looked up the hill and as I looked around, I could see the two men approaching Steve.
“My instinct told me we were being robbed, and I told Guy and Richard to come down immediately. By then the two men had realised that we knew what was going on and pretended to be thirsty.
“Guy and Richard lowered off at speed and the men again asked for something to drink. By this time everyone was on the same page.
“Both men were armed with knives, and I yelled to my friends to arm themselves with rocks and we ran out onto a ledge that ends in a rock platform the size of a garage overlooking the approach path with a 15m drop to below and a big climbing wall above it. The men started going through our gear, and I was yelling at them.
“I hurled a big rock at one of them and narrowly missed him. The rock exploded next to him, and he picked up a rock to throw at us. Gizmo was going crazy at his feet, and he turned around in an attempt to throw the rock at Gizmo but didn’t,” Mr Davies said.
While fearing for Gizmo’s safety, he realised the robbers had a lot more ammunition than they did and that they were very exposed out on the ledge with nowhere to go.
One of the men then followed them out onto the ledge and climbed onto a large flat boulder that occupies most of the platform and stands about 1.5 metres high while the other man ransacked their backpacks taking cellphones, wallets and car keys. After taking what he wanted, he then scrambled across the mountain with the loot.
“Our assailant backed-up and left, and I ran to my kit and put on my socks and shoes. Steve said he hoped I wasn’t thinking of doing something stupid, and I said I was,” Mr Davies said.
But his chase was fruitless, and he watched the man disappear into Imizamo Yethu. On his way back, he spotted a woman making her way up and shouted at her: “We have been mugged.” She made her way down, and when they arrived at the foot of the mountain Watchcon was there.”
Assessing the damage, Mr Davies realised he had lost his one-week-old phone for which he had paid R12 000.
The following day, his wife, Helen, helped him track his phone with Google Earth and the signal led to Imizamo Yethu. Unfortunately, Mr Davies had to deactivate all services on the device, as the robbers had access to his email which would also possibly give them access to his banking details.
A few months later, Mr Davies received a call – in the early hours of the morning – from a very concerned Justin Lawson who is in charge of the South African rock climbing websites on which Mr Davies features.
Mr Lawson had received an email on the website from a man asking if Hilton Davies was okay, as the man, later identified as Rob Snyders had received a very strange What’sApp message from Hilton at 3am that morning.
The What’sApp was from Mr Davies’s number, but the profile picture was of two black men.
Mr Davies had met Mr Snyders a week before the robbery while walking along Rocket Road overlooking Sandy Bay. Mr Snyders had been flying a radio control aeroplane and he and Mr Davies had spoken briefly about his hobby and exchanged numbers before going their separate ways.
The robbers had sent Mr Snyders, who was on Mr Davies’s contact list a What’sApp in error and he was concerned something had happened to him. He did not know who to contact, so he Googled Mr Davies and came across the website climbing.co.za
Although the robbers had modified the phone’s international mobile equipment identity (IMIE) number, which is a unique 15-digit number assigned to all cellular devices that can be used to block a mobile phone from being used by another person or phone company, and changed the SIM card, they had not reregistered What’sApp on their new SIM card and it had remained on Mr Davies’s number.
The police later arrested two men, one of whom had Mr Davies’s cellphone. The man claimed to have bought the phone from the other man who was with him for R100. That man was Siphelele Ntebe.