Gatesville residents have hailed a Sherwood Park mother as a hero after she desperately tried to save her three children after her car was hijacked on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a family member, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, an unknown suspect entered the 36-year old mother's parked Opel Zafira - which contained her three children, aged three, five and seven - and drove off.

"Her car got hijacked while she was selling some cakes, a day before Eid at Gatesville centre," he said.

He added the 36-year-old mother had not realised her car keys were missing from her stand.

"We suspect that the suspect had been watching her for quite some time."

Gatesville Neighbourhood Watch spokesperson Fowzia Veerasamy told News24 the local business area had become a breeding ground for crime.

"The incident happened after we had embarked on a walk-about to raise crime awareness in the area," Veerasamy said.

"… after the man got into the car, the mother ran and tried to save her children from the culprit. I think she is a hero because she was risking her life to save her kids," she added.

The family member said one of the car doors were damaged while the mother was trying to save her children. However, the suspect drove off and dropped the children off along Pook Road, where they were later found by their mother.

Police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said the vehicle was later recovered in Hanover Park.

"No arrests have been made and no injuries were sustained," Traut added.

Veerasamy said hijackings had become a norm in the area and residents were warned not to leave their vehicles unattended when they did their shopping.

According to the family member, the three children and their mother were still traumatised after their hijacking ordeal.

The neighbourhood watch and Athlone community policing forum are assisting the family with trauma counselling.

SOURCE: NEWS24