The harrowing crime-related encounter which she and her young daughter survived still gets her emotional more than 12 years later. The attack that claimed her husband resulted in her living without the man she loved, her little girl having to grow up without a father and had a string of effects.
The news that the attackers initially targeted the wrong house – in what later seemed to have been a revenge killing – and malicious rumours that she was suspected of hiring contract killers to orchestrate the attack, added to the trauma she had to cope with afterwards. But between the tears brought on by the memories, the mother remembered how her 7-year-old saved her life during the attack by four burglars who gained access to their house and shot her husband by her side in the darkness of night.
For fear of their safety more than a decade after what they have been through and based on information that two of the suspects are still reportedly at large and the Police not wanting to inform her what happened to the third after her testimony in the case, Polokwane Observer gave the undertaking not to publish their names or the location. The woman said to date she had not been given information on the outcome of the court case. According to her two of the suspects have apparently escaped following a court appearance in another case years back while the fourth was allegedly killed during a shooting incident in another province.
She took a step back in time to tell of the family’s move into a new rental place on a smallholding in the Polokwane area one Saturday in the beginning of that year. The woman said that morning she had noticed three men on the property pointing in the direction of their rental abode, one of three houses on the premises, but ignored them and continued unpacking.
She awakes to four men at bed
In the early hours of the morning three days later she awoke to the sight of four men next to their bed in their room. It was suspected that the robbers had been watching them sleeping for a while after having gained access to the house by entering through a security gate in the dining room. One of the attackers had been armed with a firearm, while another held a bolt cutter and someone else a piece of barbed wire of more or less 60cm, she recalled. As her husband got up from the bed he was shot and fell back onto the bed, she recalled. In a state of shock she attempted to help him and cover the wound, while he was bleeding profusely. Meanwhile the robbers had started moving through the house, taking her husband’s cell phone and Walkman tape player, his cigarettes, a lighter and matches, she explained. According to her the men asked for money, to which she responded that the only cash they had was R23 on top of the television set. As one of them approached her, she threw her cell phone at him. He hit her on the upper leg with the bolt cutter, only to be followed up by a blow to her one calf.
The men spoke Afrikaans, she mentioned, but at that stage she heard her daughter calling at the robbers from her room, informing them in English that she had money. She said surprisingly they had fixed their attention on her, took her one pencil bag with crayons that she held out at them and proceeded to the front part of the house. Having found the house keys, they left with the television after locking the family inside. The television was later discovered in close proximity to the house, it was learnt. The woman explained that she had feared that someone would afterwards return for her daughter, whose photo was kept in a keyring attached to the house keys.
In the aftermath of the attack
She had to get through a window to go look for help, shouting for attention at the neighbours’ gate while not knowing whether the robbers were still in the area, she said. When she had left the house she was under the impression that her husband was alive, but he was declared dead upon arrival of paramedics summoned to the scene with the Police.
She said she had later learnt that the suspects hit on the wrong house on the premises. The fact that the electricity to their new rental house had not been connected due to the fact that cables were stolen before they moved in could have contributed to the fact that they mistook her husband for the actual target living on the same premises, while the only light source they used was a lit candle, she speculated.
Three of the suspects had been arrested a year after the incident, she mentioned. In retrospect she said what upset her afterwards was the fact that the investigating officer had reworked her statement that was obtained two to three weeks later, to a version she eventually didn’t recognise. She further raised the point that she was prompted to link a man whom she couldn’t identify to the case.
She has come to accept what happened, she reckoned. She quietly concluded saying one day the robbers would bear the consequences, in the same way as the one who had pulled the trigger.
This is another interview in our Survivor Stories series, granting a voice to the survivors of horrific crimes who are often the statistics on the one end of a Police report.
Story: YOLANDE NEL