A cellphone thief was taken by surprise when six-time Comrades runner Helen Mitchelmore caught up to him and advised him he was about to be cuffed.
An active member of the ProAct Neighbourhood Watch in the Durban Highway area, the grandmother, 53, is not shy about chasing the bad guys, including three suspects in the past two weeks.
A cancer survivor, Mitchelmore ran the Comrades Marathon down-run last year, but will not run this year’s event because she finds the up-run too punishing.
However, she will be seconding a number of friends in tomorrow’s marathon which will see more than 19 000 runners leaving Durban City Hall at 5.30am, and will compete in next year’s down-run.
She described her recent run-ins with the criminals in her area.
“I live right opposite a green strip in Leeds Crescent in Pinetown, where schoolchildren walking home are being targeted.
“The first incident was about 10 days ago, when I saw a high school youngster running up the road, looking distressed, and then I saw another guy come out of the green strip.
“I went out and the youngster said the man had stolen his cellphone. This suspect just strolled brazenly past us and then started running,” said Mitchelmore.
Angry that the suspect seemed confident he could get away, she immediately gave chase, accompanied by the youngster.
‘The suspect was shocked when I suddenly ran up alongside him and told him we were going to catch him,” she said.
“In the meantime, the youngster had stopped and asked a local taxi driver for help and the driver took over the chase.” Within minutes the suspect was nabbed and handed back the stolen phone.
“On Tuesday as I arrived home, another youngster had been robbed of his cellphone and again, I saw two men coming out of the green strip. This time I followed them in my car while alerting 10111 and I chased them all the way to the M19, where the police were waiting for them on the off-ramp. The responding police units and 10111 were all fantastic,” she said.
A member of Queensburgh Harriers, Mitchelmore trains six times a week.
“My cancer is in remission and I think my running and keeping fit has a lot to do with that. I will be seconding a number of my buddies this year and hope to be back on the Comrades route next year,” she said.
Head of ProAct Neighbourhood Watch, Andreas Mathios, said statistics have shown that 70% of muggings in the area are related to the green strip opposite Mitchelmore’s home.
“Helen is an awesome asset to our team and because she’s a marathon runner, we use her for all our foot chases. We know she can run the guys down and she also has a great ability to keep track of where the suspects are headed,” said Mathios. - Independent on Saturday