PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - A decorated police detective, who played an instrumental role in bringing down a child pornographer in Plettenberg Bay five years ago, was tragically shot dead in the line of duty last week.
Since the news of Delene Grobler-Koonin's death broke, tributes have been pouring in, including from locals who have dubbed her a "fighter for the vulnerable".
The 44-year-old mother and wife was one of the investigators in the high-profile William Beale child pornography case. The Plettenberg Bay computer engineer was convicted of 18 644 charges of child pornography possession and sentenced to 15 years behind bars in 2017. He later appealed the sentence and it was reduced.
The Hawks confirmed in a statement that Grobler-Koonin, who was part of the Hawks Technical Operations Management Section (Toms) in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, was killed in action during a cash-in-transit incident near Mahikeng in North West last week.
"The armed gang had shot and forced a cash security van off the road. The suspects were confronted as they blew open the van… In their attempt to escape, two of the vehicles faced off with members from Toms," the Hawks said.
It was during this shootout that Grobler-Koonin was fatally shot.
The suspects fled the scene, but a manhunt ensued and an injured suspect was tracked down and arrested at a Johannesburg hospital. During a follow-up operation in Coligny, where the wanted suspects were confronted at a filling station and retaliated with AK47 rifles, another officer, Detective Sergeant Wynand Herbst (42), was also fatally shot, according to the statement. The Hawks confirmed three suspects were shot dead and two seriously injured during the shootout.
Later that evening a further two suspects were traced to Ventersdorp but they managed to escape. So far, three AK47s, two 9mm pistols, a bakkie and a minibus have been seized.
Local anti-child abuse group The Green Hearts said the "incredible" Grobler-Koonin was one of the officers who led the investigation into Operation Cloud 9 in 2015 when Beale was arrested and eventually charged. "She was an incredible police officer – service above self her motto – and we mourn her tragic passing today, struck down in the line of duty," the group said.
Grobler-Koonin also fought for animal rights and was thanked for her dedication to the NSPCA's special investigations unit. "Thank you for your unwavering passion for animals, particularly fighting dogs.
"Your courage and resilience in bringing their abusers to justice will be honoured for years to come," the NSPCA said. "We will never forget the monumental impact you made for South Africa, and for animal welfare. Our sincere condolences to her loved ones at this devastating time."
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