Collen Chauke dies in hospital
Cash-in-transit robber Collen Chauke died of natural causes on Friday, the Department of Correctional Services said. Chauke, who was serving a 20-year sentence in C-Max, had been in the Kalafong Hospital for the past week, said departmental spokesperson Isaac Mosiane.
“I can’t divulge the nature of his illness.”
He died around 9.30am.
He was in his early thirties.
Chauke was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in 2001 after he was found guilty of robbing R12,6-million from a depot of the SBV security company in Pretoria in October 1997.
At some stage, police suspected him of being the mastermind behind 17 murders and 30 robberies in which R82-million was stolen. He managed to evade the police for more than a year after escaping from the Pretoria prison along with five others in December 1997.
Later that month it was reported that he attended a birthday party of Peter Mokaba, then Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, in Sandton.
Another well-known politician, current Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, reportedly visited Chauke in the Pretoria prison before his escape.
City Press reported in February 1998 that Chauke had contacted the paper and granted its reporter an interview in a shack outside Pretoria.
“They make a scapegoat out of me. I’m not a robber. I’m a soldier and businessman,” he was quoted as saying.
Police offered a reward of between R100 000 and R200 000 for his arrest. This was later increased to R350 000.
A couple of “fake Collen Chaukes” emerged during this time. First there were rumours that he was arrested in Namibia for his involvement in a cash-in-transit heist. Then police arrested a Colin Chauke in Midrand, but he turned out to be the wrong one.
In December 1998 Director Bushie Engelbrecht, then head of the police’s national investigating team into cash-in-transit heists, promised the real Chauke would be behind bars before Christmas that year.
But it was only in January 1999 that Chauke was arrested in Nelspruit.
The escape saw another five years added to his 15-year prison sentence for the SBV robbery.
In May this year Chauke was sentenced to another six months in jail, suspended for five years, for an escape from the Pretoria prison in 1994 while serving a four-year sentence for car theft. At that time it took the police only two months to rearrest him.
While in prison in 2000, Chauke converted to Islam and decided to change his name to Shiram Iman Dawood. - Sapa