Cricket: Mugging adds to England safety fears

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SECURITY CONCERNS, which are never far from the surface in this country, were raised again here yesterday after one of England's security guards, Jaco van Jaarsveld, was mugged at knifepoint just yards from the team hotel.

The incident, which will do nothing to help South Africa's bid for the 2006 football World Cup, took place just days before the England players' families arrive in Durban for Christmas. With the recent pipe bomb attack in Cape Town which injured 40 people adding to the apprehension, concerns for their safety as well as that of the thousands of England supporters due to arrive for the next two Tests have increased.

An undercover policeman, Van Jaarsveld has in the past been assigned to protect Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton and is normally armed. However, when he went out at about 10.30pm to visit an arcade of nearby bars, he left his gun behind. During the day the small heath across which Van Jaarsveld walked is occupied by an antiquated funfair and is fairly busy. At night there is less traffic, though the area is neither dark nor secluded. Nevertheless, players have been warned not to use it after dark.

On the heath Van Jaarsveld was surprised by two men lying flat in the grass. With a knife at his throat and another to his back, he was relieved of his wallet and mobile phone. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Van Jaarsveld said. "Because I wasn't on official duty, it was not necessary to carry my firearm. It's not a long walk across that piece of land. It's just one of those things."

Dr Ali Bacher, the chief executive of the United Cricket Board here, said the incident would not bring about increased protection for the England team. "There is no need to rethink security measures," Bacher said. "We've undertaken measures to ensure a trouble-free tour and I believe that will be the case. I'd like to think it won't make the players anxious when their families come out.

"We never go public on what we're doing and we've had no trouble with tours from a security point of view throughout the 90s."

Bacher added: "It's unfortunate what happened, but these things don't just happen in South Africa, they can happen in London."

Nor is this the first time in recent years that England have had reason to be concerned after a violent incident while on tour. John Crawley was beaten up without provocation when he was walking back from a bar in Cairns on England's last tour of Australia.

The England tour manager, Phil Neale, was not quite as sanguine as Bacher and felt that, although the mugging was an isolated incident, it would serve as a timely reminder for team members to take precautions.

"We will be reminding players of the need to walk around in groups, or to take taxis when socialising," Neale said.

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