Family and friends are mourning the sudden loss of a young couple who died shortly after running out of gas on a South African motorway.
South African police confirmed delivery driver Johanco Fleischman, 19, and his girlfriend Jessica Kuhn, 23, died after their Toyota Hilux ran out of diesel at the top of an off ramp at the N12 West national route near Benoni, 23 miles east of Johannesburg.
After coming to a complete stop at about 11 a.m. local time, Fleischman phoned a butcher friend of the family to organize a can of fuel. However, three men approached the vehicle and killed the couple before the fuel could arrive.
Gauteng Province Community Police Board (GPCPB) said two employees who were sitting in the back of the car and survived the shooting. They recalled the attackers calling Fleischman an “uhmlungu,” which roughly translates as “English,” before opening fire.
“The attackers had used the word ‘uhmlungu,’ which is a phrase of sorts for ‘white man’ to the driver before he started shooting but I don’t think that necessarily makes this attack racist,” GPCPB Chief Dr. MR Patel told the Daily Mail. “The two workers who were in the back when the attack happened had returned but both been badly beaten and were severely traumatized.”
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) May 27, 2019
Police believe there may have been a struggle before Fleischman was fatally shot and robbed.
“I think these were opportunists who saw a car broken down and saw the opportunity to rob them and it seems the driver put up a fight and after that it just all went totally pear-shaped,” Patel said. “I can see markers for nine bullet casings near the car in photographs but there could well have been many more fired.”
Private emergency medical care provider ER24 said paramedics found Fleischman outside of the Toyota with multiple gunshot wounds, including to the head.
Witnesses claim a total of at least nine bullets were fired towards Fleischman before he slumped to the road. The gunman then allegedly leaned into the car and shot Kuhn once in the head before stealing her mobile phone and setting the car on fire with a lighter.
“Both showed no signs of life and were declared dead at the scene. It was a terrible thing to happen,” ER24 spokesperson Ross Campbell said.
The two badly beaten workers fled for their lives and a passing motorist stopped and used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames.
“The two workers who were with the couple had fled but returned when we arrived and the South African Police Service are investigating from them exactly what happened,” Campbell said.
Police condemned what they described as a “callous murder” and expressed their condolences to the victims’ loved ones.
“It is deeply concerning that such a blatant and brazen act of violence against innocents can be conducted in broad daylight by thugs and criminal elements in our community,” Patel said. “We extend our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of this couple in this senseless criminal incident.”
Specialized Security Services private investigator Mike Bolhuis said family and friends of the victims had appointed his team to help police investigate the tragedy on May 26.
“We have been appointed by the friends and families of Johanco Fleischmann, 19, and Jessica Kuhn, 21, to investigate the brutal and unnecessary murder of this young couple,” Bolhuis said on Facebook. “We have assembled our top specialist investigative teams that will be working closely with the Organized Crime Unit to solve this senseless murder and bring the killers to justice.”
Bolhuis and his team extended their heartfelt condolences to those affected by the tragedy.
“We wish that God will guide you and keep you through this difficult time,” he said.
Bolhuis asked the public to respect the privacy of the victims’ families and let the investigation run its course.
“We would also like to ask that the media respect these families in this difficult time of mourning by directing all queries to my team and I,” he said. “Although we understand how extremely difficult this situation is, we would like to respectfully ask that friends, family, and everyone involved in this case give us the necessary space and time to complete our investigation and not take matters into their own hands.”
Gauteng Police Commissioner Elias Mawela has set up a special task force to track the three suspected killers.