Thank God for technology that helped a man in France call for help for his parents in Mellville, Johannesburg after he watched and heard them being robbed while they were chatting on a Skype call.
“The situation was actually saved by the fact that I was Skyping,” Tessa Reddy, the man’s mother said.
It was her birthday last Monday and after a night out with her husband, she decided to make a Skype call to her son in Paris to share her excitement.
As soon as she started her conversation with her son, Tessa said she 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 Tessa.
She recounted the incidence saying “then the man, in his 20s, pulled a gun on him and said, ‘Shut up or we will shoot you’. Then they started hauling him down the stairs”.
She told her son that something was wrong as she was still sitting on the couch, talking to him on Skype through her iPad while the robbery attack unfolded.
“The other robber then came and held a gun to my face. They put both of us on the floor,” said Tessa.
She tried to entreat the robbers by telling them it was her birthday and that she did not want any trouble, but the they were not moved.
Meanwhile, the Skype call she had been on was recording the entire scenario. While the iPad lay on the couch, her son could not see everything that was happening in the room, but he could hear the robbers shouting at his parents, demanding for access to their safe and jewelry.
“This whole time, I could hear Naill breathing through the iPad,” said Tessa.
“What he did was to 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.
Naill managed to make phone calls and send messages to his brother Micah, who lives just a few kilometres away in Parktown. He also called a friend in Cape Town and a good number 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 a few 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 about the robbery and the local security company.
While help was en-route, Tessa and Govan were trying to negotiate their way out of a potentially fatal situation.
“We told them to take the television and the money. I told them I don’t have any jewelry. 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 Tessa. Then the police and security company arrived and the two attackers fled the house through the back door and disappeared into the Mellville Koppies which bordered the home.
The couple recounted the last few minutes as frightening “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 but what if there was no skype call at the time? “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.
They were grateful to have come out of the incident unharmed.
“I think we are terribly lucky. Had it not been for that Skype call, who knows?” Tessa said. If help had not come when it did, the robbers would have taken their time and who knows what would have happened.
The robbers made away with R10, 000 in cash and goods worth about R50, 000.