Son watches Joburg parents being robbed while on Skype call from Paris
A man in France managed to summon help for his parents in Mellville, Johannesburg after he saw and heard them being robbed while they were on a Skype call.
"All I can say is thank God for technology... The situation was actually saved by the fact that I was Skyping," Tessa Reddy, the man's mother, told News24.
It was her birthday last Monday and after a night out with her husband, she decided to Skype her son Naill in Paris.
The two had just started their conversation when Tessa heard her husband Govan speaking to someone upstairs.
"Govan said 'hello' to one of them when he bumped into them upstairs. He said 'what are you doing here?' He didn't realise who it was. He thought it was our son who lives in Parktown," said Reddy.
'Shut up or we will shoot you'
A man, in his 20s, then pulled a gun on him.
"They told him 'shut up madala or we will shoot you' and they started hauling him down the stairs," said Reddy.
She was still sitting on the couch, talking to her son over Skype via her iPad, as the commotion unfolded.
She told him something was wrong.
"The other [robber then] came and held a gun to my face. They put both of us on the floor," said Reddy.
In a bid to get mercy from the robbers, Reddy told them it was her birthday. The pair were unmoved.
Throughout their ordeal, the Skype call she had been on had not yet been disconnected.
The iPad lay on the couch and although her son could not see everything that was happening, he could hear the robbers shouting at his parents, demanding access to their safe and jewellery.
"This whole time, I could hear Naill breathing [through the iPad]," said Reddy.
"What he did was switch off the video, but I could hear him typing very fast and talking to his roommate. The roommate told him to mute the device," said Tessa.
Her son managed to make phone calls and send messages to his brother Micah, who lives just a few kilometres away in Parktown, as well as a friend in Cape Town and scores of other family friends on Facebook.
"He sent Facebook messages and said 'Please help. My parents are being attacked. Call Brixton police'," said Reddy.
Within moments, word of the burglary at the Reddy house had spread and Micah Reddy and his friend were on their way to the scene. They and some family friends had already alerted the police and the local security company.
Meanwhile, Tessa and Govan were trying to negotiate their way out of a potentially deadly situation.
"We told them to take the television and the money. I told them I don't have any jewellery. They found cash in the office, cellphones, laptops and the iPad which was still logged onto the Skype call.
"The guy kept asking whether it is an iPad or iPhone," said Reddy.
Within minutes, the police and security company had arrived and the two attackers left the Reddy house through the back door and disappeared into the Mellville Koppies which border the home.
The last few moments were the worst for the couple.
"That is the moment you dread. You keep thinking he can put a bullet through your skull," she said.
The entire ordeal lasted about 15 minutes.
"It could have gone on for the whole night had it not been for that Skype call... It was traumatic but that is the tale of many South Africans. Had this thing gone on for hours, they could have been agitated for not finding a safe. They could have taken their time and gone through the entire house," Tessa Reddy said.
"It was actually a three way [effort] between Paris, Cape Town and Johannesburg."
The two men made off with R10,000 in cash and goods worth about R50 000.
Not careful enough
Despite being shaken up by the incident, the Reddys were not planning on leaving the area.
"I love Joburg and we will not live caged in. [Crime] happens everywhere and I guess we were not careful enough. Maybe I was a statistic waiting [to happen]," said Reddy.
Although security already seemed tight at the Reddy house, they had since established that their attackers had climbed down the koppie and popped open one of the palisade fences and gained entry through an open window.
They now planned to add even tighter security measures.
Earlier that night, they had received a call from their security company about their alarm going off.
"We didn't think anything of it because my neighbour's alarm goes off like three times a day. You get complacent. Our idea of being careful was walking into the house slowly," said Reddy.
They were grateful to have come out of the incident unharmed.
"I think we are terribly lucky. Had it not been for that Skype, who knows?" she said.