A mugger picked the wrong tannie when he grabbed 69-year-old Cheryl Cowley in a Bellville mall parking lot.
Ms Cowley, who is a member of the Bellville Community Police Forum’s executive committee, had been searching for parking at Willowbridge Mall around noon last Friday March 10, when she eventually found a spot in the lower basement.
She was about to get her shopping bags from the boot of her car when someone grabbed her from behind.
Ms Cowley asked the man twice what he wanted, but he didn’t reply. She had last had basic self defence training 30 years ago, but determined not to give up without a fight, she pushed herself back, loosening her assailant’s grip, before swinging her knee and a delivering a swift kick to the mugger’s testicles.
Realising he had met more than his match, the man fled through the fire escape.
Ms Cowley said he was in his 20s and dressed in an orange sweater, jeans with no shoes.
After the man ran off, she screamed but no one was around. Still in shock, she headed into the mall, searching for security. Although shaken, she had to get a few things but she found it hard to shop after what had just happened.
Ms Cowley believes that security needs to be beefed up at the mall.
“This was a shocking experience. If I didn’t react as quick as I did, who knows what could’ve happened,” she said.
The attack, she said, had come out of nowhere – she hadn’t noticed anyone in the basement while she was looking for parking. She believes the man must have been hiding by the fire escape, waiting for some unsuspecting shopper to come along.
The incident was reported on Facebook, with many asking where the security was at the time.
Natasha Davenport said: “ One pays for parking there so there should be security guards walking around.”
Riette Burger also asked where the security guards had been, and Katie Ann Craddock said: “Why on earth are we paying for ‘secure parking’ then?”
Willowbridge marketing manager Lizelle Louw said security had been beefed up after the incident was discussed with their security firm and the police.
“We are unfortunately unable to divulge our safety measures for security reasons. The centre takes the safety and security of our tenants and shoppers very seriously,” she said.
Ms Louw said no other such incidents had been reported at the mall. She the fire escape gates needed to be open from time to time.
BellvilleCPFspokesman Tommy Milakovic said Ms Cowley was one tough woman and he was thankful she hadn’t been seriously hurt. People needed to be more vigilant and avoid speaking, messaging or listening to music on their cellphones while out and about.
“They are making themselves easy targets as they are not as aware of their surroundings. There are always people watching and these criminals are mostly opportunists,” he said.
Mr Milakovic said people should not ignore their “sixth sense”.
“There a lot of people who have that sixth sense, especially women. Do not ignore that uneasy feeling. It is your mind telling you something isn’t right,” he said.
Ms Cowley said the support and messages she received after the incident had been very encouraging. She said she wanted to raise awareness.