Pictures: Thieves tunnel into Joburg liquor store during lockdown

A Shoprite Liquorshop in Newtown Junction, Johannesburg was robbed after thieves tunnelled through a solid concrete floor to gain access.

The incident took place during South Africa’s hard Level 4 and 5 lockdown period, during which the sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited, Shoprite said.

The manager of the Shoprite Liquorshop in Newtown Junction discovered the theft – and a large hole in the ground – when she entered the store on Friday (29 May). She had returned to prepare the store for reopening under the easing level 3 lockdown conditions on 1 June.

With alcohol in high demand during the lockdown period, the store was secured from the outside throughout.

But the suspects avoided the mall’s main entrance and instead used electrical and stormwater tunnels beneath the shopping centre to gain access to an area beneath the store. They then tunnelled through the solid concrete floor directly into the liquor shop to gain access undetected, Shoprite said.

It is unclear how the thieves knew where to tunnel, nor how long it took them to get through the thick concrete floor, but they returned a few times to steal a large amount of stock.

Shoprite loss control manager, Oswald Meiring, said that the suspects were first recorded on CCTV cameras on 21 May – just 10 days before liquor sales were allowed.

Footage from inside the store shows three suspects, although more could have remained in the tunnel to help move the large quantity of liquor stolen.

Meiring said that the thieves made off with whiskey, brandy, gin, cider, vodka, and beer with an estimated value of R300,000.

South Africa officially moved to level 3 lockdown on Monday, 1 June with the government introducing a host of new regulations around what citizens can and cannot do.

As part of the level 3 regulatory changes, South Africans will now be allowed to purchase alcohol.

The regulations state that the sale of liquor will be permitted between Monday and Thursday, from 09h00 – 17h00. Online sales will be subject to the same times, while no liquor may be consumed onsite.

Read: Level 3 lockdown rules in South Africa – here are all the changes from today

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Pictures: Thieves tunnel into Joburg liquor store during lockdown