Johannesburg – Just hours after the last Justin Bieber fans made their way home from his concert at FNB Stadium on Sunday night, thieves entered a strong room full of money head first.
It was sometime between 2 and 8am and it was the final stages of an audacious crime.
They made their entry from a hole in the ceiling by rope.
For days, hidden from view, the criminals armed with crowbars and hammers had chiselled their way through the wall of the strong room, where concert promoters stashed their takings.
They had worked while as many as 900 security guards patrolled the stadium and thousands of workers prepared for the two concerts.
Their hammering was most likely muffled by the concert preparations going on outside.
Once in the strong room, the thieves broke open cash boxes and stuffed large-denomination notes into rucksacks. They left the smaller notes and change scattered around the room.
Also left on the scene was the rope they had used to access the strong room. The police have now taken this away as evidence.
When concert organisers arrived for work on Monday morning, expecting to count the cash from the bumper weekend, they discovered the heist had taken place.
Police were immediately called to the scene and an investigation kicked into gear.
Crime intelligence officials and detectives scoured the stadium for clues and forensics experts searched for evidence and dusted for fingerprints.
Police and stadium management already suspect that it was an inside job.
“I myself wasn’t even aware of this specific room being used. The section had been handed over to our client (Big Concerts) and that area is hidden in one of the cavities of the stadium. Very few people know about the existence of the strong room.
“It must be somebody who knows the premises, who knows the layout of the building. It looked like they had been working on this area for a considerable amount of time,” said Stadium Management South Africa chief executive Jacques Grobbelaar.
What is believed to have happened is that the criminals entered a ladies toilet next to the strong room.
They climbed into the ceiling and there began chiselling through the wall. The thieves even packed the bricks neatly against the wall, said Grobbelaar.
Once through the wall, they made a small hole in the ceiling.
Police told Grobbelaar that for the thief to enter the store room, they would have had to have done so head first. The thug’s shoe prints, said Grobbelaar, could still be seen on the wall. It is about a 3.5m drop to the floor.
Detectives believe that the entry took place after 2am as this was when the last money drop was made.
To gain access to the strongroom, the thieves would have had to walk through the basement parking of the stadium, use a master key to open a locked gate, swipe accreditation to enter an enclosed area and know the layout of the safe. It is also possible they would have seen the architectural blueprint of the facility.
Officials are not saying at this stage how much money was taken, but it is understood that all the cash takings from the concession stands at both the Justin Bieber and Bon Jovi concerts were being held in the strong room.
“There was a lot of cash in that room,” says a source with knowledge of the concert industry.
Big Concerts Managing Director Justin van Wyk was on the scene on Monday assisting staff and police but declined to comment.
Grobbelaar said it would have been easy for the thieves to exit the stadium after their heist, as there were between 500 and 1 500 workers on site at the time and they could have easily mingled with them.
Police, said Grobbelaar, were following several leads.
They have lifted a number of fingerprints and shoe prints from the strong room and have CCTV footage.
There were also plans to offer an reward.
Stadium Management South Africa has hired a private investigations company.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said a case of housebreaking and theft had been opened and was being investigated.
She said investigators were searching for an unknown number of suspects. The Star