World Cup media members held up at gunpoint in hotel

Published Jun. 9, 2010 5:44 p.m. ET

A Portuguese photographer was held up at gunpoint early Wednesday and two other journalists were also robbed at the same World Cup hotel.

Antonio Simoes said he woke around 4 a.m. and found two men entering his room at the Nutbush Boma Lodge outside of Magaliesburg, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

"One of the guys pointed a hand gun at my head, and then they took all my gear - cameras, lenses, laptop," said Simoes, who works for the Portuguese daily O Jogo. "Then they told me to lie on the bed and they covered me with a blanket, pressed the gun against my head and told me to sleep.

"The whole thing took one or two minutes, but it felt like hours," Simoes told The Associated Press.

Simoes said the three cameras and gear the thieves stole was worth about ?30,000 ($35,000). They also took ?3,500 in cash as well as his passport and a pair of jeans.

The photographer said he stayed in bed for a while after being robbed, too scared to move and worrying about what was happening in the other rooms.

Police recovered his World Cup accreditation - without which a journalist can't cover the tournament - near the hotel. Simoes said he plans to stay in South Africa and hopes to borrow cameras to work during the competition.


Spanish journalist Miguel Serrano, who works for the Spanish sports newspaper Marca, and Rui Gustavo Morais were also robbed, but they slept through it. The three were staying in a detached four-room lodge that looks out over the Magaliesburg Mountains.

Serrano said the thieves made off with his computer, three cell phones, passport, ?4,000 in cash and all of his clothes. He was left with a long-sleeve black T-shirt and jeans.

Lt. Colonel Leon Engelbrecht of the South African Police Service confirmed that police were looking for two suspects, but would not say whether any arrests had been made. Serrano said police had told him one suspect had already been arrested.

"Two of the journalists slept through the robbery, but one was awake," Engelbrecht said. "This is obviously high-profile, so we have to make sure we are on top of this. We are still waiting for detailed information from the scene."

The remote four-star lodge is nine miles (15 kilometers) from the Portugal team's base camp.

Police had cordoned off the hotel and conducted fingerprint tests in the rooms.

Serrano said about 20 journalists covering the Portugal team are staying at the Nutbush, and that they had previously raised concerns about hotel safety.

"We had already complained to the Portuguese federation that the security left a lot to be desired," Serrano said, "but we never thought that something like this would happen."

Serrano said he slept while his room was cleared out by the thieves, who took a laptop computer, a cell phone and more than $3,000 in cash - in both Euros and South African rand.

"They took everything except my dirty clothes and my World Cup accreditation," he said.

The owner of the hotel, Nick Mauerburger, called the robbery "an unfortunate incident" that "happened at absolutely the wrong time."

Associated Press writers Gerald Imray and Ian Phillips in Johannesburg contributed to this report.