Top British runner brutally mugged in machete attack on training run in South Africa
by: Hani Kamal El-Din
Great Britain cross-country runner Tom Evans has been brutally mugged at knifepoint while training in South Africa for one of the toughest ultra-trail races in the world.
Former British army captain Tom, 31, was left in fear for his life when he was ambushed by two robbers while out running alone on Table Mountain in Cape Town yesterday.
The former Welsh Guard’s captain was rugby tackled by two men close to the King’s Blockhouse on Devil’s Peak built in 1796 and though outnumbered fought back.
He managed to grab back his snatched mobile phone and sent the larger man packing but the smaller mugger pulled a machete and a kitchen knife from a backpack.
Elite athlete Tom – sponsored by Red Bull and Adidas – said: “Once the knife was at my throat they made it very clear they would kill me if I carried on fighting so I stopped.
“They got my iPhone 15 and then took my Garmin watch, both worth about £2500 then went through my backpack pulling everything out and asking how much things were worth.
“Then they spotted my wedding ring and said if I didn’t take it off they would cut it off. I have just celebrated my 1st wedding anniversary and I asked them to not take it.
“The knife was pushed in harder and I thought Sophie would rather have me back in one piece than the ring so I took it off and gave it to them which was so very hard to do.
“They told me not to follow and ran off and I headed back down off the contour path and down towards Rhodes Memorial and the university to report what happened” he said.
The South African National Park Rangers searched the area along with police but could find no trace of the pair who attacked as Tom was out on a 40km mountain training run.
Tom was one of the star runners who had top celebrity billing for those competing in the RMB Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km race and was a hot favourite to win the tough event.
But the mountain ordeal has traumatised the elite athlete so much that he no longer feels safe to continue his training programme and is flying home on British Airways tonight.
Tom of Loughborough, Leics, said: “I’ve spoken it over with Sophie and it makes sense that if I can’t get myself in the right frame of mind physically or mentally to fly home.
“I have travelled all over Africa and had great experiences but this is my first time in South Africa and in Cape Town and it is very sad that I have been forced to leave.
“But what happened was very traumatic with two men with a machete and kitchen knife threatening to kill me and that will sadly be my memory of my first visit over here.
“Will I come back? Who knows? I’ve always wanted to do the Cape Town ultra-trail as it is one of the toughest in the world and I hope in the future I will catch a plane back.
On the day Tom was mugged the Minister of Police Bheki Cele revealed the latest crime figures which showed 76 murders and 115 rapes a day took place a day in the last 3 months.
Government officials however insist most crime takes place in the townships and poor areas and involves gang turf wars and drugs and that attacks on tourists are rare.
The British doctor Kar Hao Tech, 40, shot dead and US tourist Walter Fischel, 55, shot in the face had both been taken by their Sat-Nav into a dangerous airport township.
Most tourists who are victims of crime mistakenly wander alone into known danger spots.
A Table Mountain park ranger said: “This trail runner unfortunately was attacked by opportunist muggers but he broke the golden rule to go on the mountain alone.
“We cannot stress enough that runners and hikers should enjoy the mountain but in groups as if alone you are a target for muggers or helpless if you have a fall”.
The crime situation was not helped in August when the ANC Government ordered the early release of 15,000 men from overcrowded prisons to house more criminals.
A sharp spike in knife and gun muggings in tourist areas has been reported since the mass release and Cape Town police are organising extra patrols for the summer.
The former soldier married international triathlete Sophie Coldwell, 28, in November last year and they celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary on the 12th of this month.
This year Tom has won the 100-mile USA Western States Endurance Run and the 33-mile Ultra Trail in Snowdonia and was 2nd in the USA Black Canyon Ultra 60-mile race.
He has run for Great Britain’s cross country and trail running team and is training for the next Olympics and had hoped to celebrate Xmas by winning the Cape Town ultra.
Tom changed careers after taking part in the world’s toughest race the 251km desert ultra Marathon des Sables and came third and left the British army to become an athlete.