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Pretoria newlyweds talk about armed robbery at their wedding: ‘At first we thought it was a prank’

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What should’ve been a Pretoria couple’s most beautiful day turned into a nightmare when armed robbers struck the reception venue.

The last guests had just departed the Riverside Castle wedding and function venue in Pretoria East last Thursday when six armed robbers showed up where Heinrich Pistorius (33) and his new wife, Almarie (29), had just celebrated their wedding.

“At first we thought it was a prank,” Almarie, who’s seven months pregnant, told YOU. “But we quickly realised it was real – these were real robbers.”

The couple were meant to leave on their honeymoon to the Kruger Park on Tuesday but they’ve been so traumatised by the incident that they’ve decided to stay home.

Almarie says it was an intimate wedding with just 30 guests. The ceremony started at 3pm and the incident happened just after 8pm, while they were cleaning up and Heinrich was taking the gifts to the car.

The wedding was held in the chapel, followed by the reception in the Summer Kitchen self-service venue on the estate.

“The last guests had just left. There were only a few family members – my two little girls, my dad, his girlfriend, her son, my sister and her three daughters, and my brother. Three men with guns ordered us to lie down.

“They tied everyone’s hands with cable ties, except for the kids. They demanded my husband’s car keys. He couldn’t hand it over because his hands were tied. In the struggle a shot went off between my husband’s legs – thank God he wasn’t hit.”

She struggles with the fact that the kids were traumatised in that way. Her dad’s girlfriend’s son is seven. Her own daughters are five and six years old, and her sister’s daughters are four, 10 and 12. Almarie’s brother is 17.

Three more robbers stood guard nearby with AK47s while the robbery happened. Eventually all six left in her husband’s car, a Volkswagen Polo, with all their wedding gifts and everyone’s wallets and cellphones.

“It’s just not something you’d ever imagine. People need to be mindful of the security of the venue they choose. We were going to spend the night there but we decided to rather go home.”

Jaco Ackerman, owner of Riverside Castle, told YOU the robbers had gained entry to the venue by overpowering the security guard at the gate.

“He didn’t have time to radio for help – they’d caught him completely by surprise,” Jaco says.

He says upon further investigation it was established the robbers had attempted to gain entry at an earlier stage by tampering with the electric fence.

“The whole thing is just terrible – for me, my staff and of course our guests,” Jaco says.

“One takes all possible precautions to prevent something like this but then it still happens. I built this place myself – it was my biggest dream. I don’t know what to make of the whole thing.”

Jaco adds he recently upgraded the security measures at the venue but that he’ll be consulting professionals again now to re-evaluate measures.

Constable Yeroboam Mbatsane, spokesperson of the Boschkop police station, confirmed the incident. Mbatsane says apart from the car, gifts, cellphones and wallets, the robbers also fled with cash from the cash bar.

He says the investigation is ongoing and no one has been arrested.

Police are asking for anyone with more information about the incident to come forward and contact the Boschkop police station on 012-902-8200.

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