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Divers’ bodies wash ashore

The police in the Overberg are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two men whose bodies washed ashore over the weekend.

The deceased were both wearing diving suits when their bodies were found and it is suspected that the men might have been part of a group of alleged poachers caught diving in a restricted area at Quoin Point last week.

Lieutenant-colonel Winston Coetzee, Gansbaai Police commander, confirmed that the body of a man who had reportedly drowned washed ashore at Pearly Beach on Sunday 26 January.

“The officers discovered the lifeless body of an unknown man on the rocks. The deceased was dressed in a diving suit.”

He added that an inquest docket has been opened to determine the circumstances under which the person drowned and the cause of death.

No foul play

Bredasdorp Police confirmed that another diver’s body washed ashore at Quoin Point near Buffeljagsbaai early on Sunday afternoon.

Warrant Officer Jakobus Marthinus, spokesperson for Bredasdorp Police, says an angler discovered the body of the unknown man still wearing a diving suit, on the rocks.

“An inquest docket has been opened. The post mortem results indicate that the cause of death was drowning. No foul play is suspected,” said Marthinus.

Marthinus says it is suspected that the deceased was part of a group of alleged poachers who were caught near Quoin Point on Thursday.

“The police noticed the group of divers in the water and waited until they came ashore. Two other men reportedly stayed behind in the water and it is believed that the deceased was one of these men,” Marthinus explained.

He added that the deceased’s identity is still unknown and requested that members of the public who believe a relative might be missing, should contact the police. The eight suspects appeared in the Bredasdorp Magistrates’ Court on Monday on charges of diving in a prohibited area. Two suspects also face charges of the illegal possession of abalone.

Smuggling syndicates

In a separate incident 46 suspected poachers from the Gansbaai area appeared in the Plettenberg Bay Magistrates’ Court on Monday after they were caught with abalone in their possession at Keurboomsrivier in the Southern Cape.

Captain Malcolm Poje, spokesperson for the police in the Southern Cape, reported that the men were arrested on Thursday 23 January during a joint operation between various law enforcement authorities.

“This endeavour,” explained Poje, “is part of the integrated approach by Saps to eradicate the illegal and lucrative trade of abalone in the Western Cape and to break the back of smuggling syndicates. This was an intelligence driven operation between SanParks, Saps and other entities.”

Vigilant park rangers attached to the Garden Route National Park and police members of the Mossel Bay Sea Border unit spotted the poachers on the shoreline near Keurboomsrivier last Thursday. They approached the group who were in possession of diving equipment and bags. Upon searching the bags they found 142 kg of abalone concealed in these bags.

The diving equipment and abalone was confiscated.

Poje says preliminary investigation reveals that the suspects, aged between 22 and 55, hail from Gansbaai.

Ongoing operations

A local police spokesperson says the fact that alleged poachers are being arrested further afield is an indication that divers are leaving the district to dive in other areas as result of on-going joint anti-poaching operations involving the police, Sea Border Police, South African National Defence Force and other authorities. “Poaching activities in the area have been quiet for some time as result of Operation Phakisa being in the area from September to December, followed by Operation Corona since December. Other priority crimes such as murder, attempted murder, housebreakings have also decreased. This is apparent across the Overberg,” said the spokesperson.

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