December 20 2006 at 04:34AM
By Sholain Govender
"I want them. I want them come hell or high water." These were the words of a distraught husband after robbers killed his wife during a house robbery in Brooklyn's Clark Street.
Susan Vermaak would have celebrated her 64th birthday in a few days. Instead her family will spend that day and many other days in mourning after five armed robbers - including a woman - entered their home on Monday demanding firearms and killed Vermaak when they did not get what they wanted.
Vermaak, a retired real estate agent, former nursing sister and former ballet teacher, had just returned from her daily trip to the gym at about 11am when it is believed the robbers confronted her in the garage.
'My mother didn't have the keys to the gun safe'
The family's live-in domestic worker, Sheila Molope, who was in the house at the time of the robbery, was gagged and tied up after the thieves demanded she take them on a tour of the home and show them where the valuables were kept.
Vermaak was taken to the mezzanine-floor study where the robbers demanded the key to the gun safe, according to Molope.
"My mother didn't have the keys to the gun safe but did give them the key to another safe from which they took cash," said Vermaak's son, Henry, who also lives in the house.
Henry, 38, who was on holiday in Kosi Bay when the incident occurred and immediately returned to Pretoria upon hearing the news, said that he had taken the gun safe key with him.
"The domestic worker said she heard them shouting at my mother and asking her for the key," said Henry.
'I started running up and down the stairs looking for her'
"She also heard them hitting her and then a gunshot."
Henry said the thieves had stolen cash, some clothing, jewellery and his mother's cellphone.
Henry Senior, Vermaak's husband, who owns a car dealership near Morula Sun, arrived home at about 6pm and found the garage door ajar.
"My dad saw my mother's water bottle beside her car on the ground."
Henry said his father rushed to untie Molope when he entered the house after he heard her muffled cries from downstairs. He discovered his wife's body after a three-minute search.
"I started running up and down the stairs looking for her after I saw a yellow ski rope on the kitchen floor," said Henry Senior.
He said his wife's body was cold when he found her. "Her hands were tied behind her back and there was a plastic bag over her face," he said. "She had three stab wounds and a ski rope around her neck."
The family has lived in their Brooklyn home since 1985 and has never had any break-ins or crime related incidents until Monday. But Henry Senior said crime was an ongoing problem in Brooklyn and the police needed to act.
"With the consent of the police, we're going to employ two top detectives to investigate the case regardless of cost," he said. "That's the least I can do for her even if it takes me years and millions of rands."
On Tuesday afternoon, Molope underwent voluntary polygraph tests and questioning by police. Henry Senior said police were still processing evidence and it was too soon to know if they had any leads.
Henry Senior said three of his children had already left the country and he was trying to get his two children who remained in South Africa to emigrate too.
Police Inspector Paul Ramaloko confirmed the incident and said a case of house robbery and murder had been opened at the Brooklyn police station.
Henry Senior said his wife's death was a terrible blow. He and Vermaak were set to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary on January 5.
Henry Junior described his mother as very active and a wonderful person and said that he was still coming to terms with her death.
"It's unreal. I have difficulty fathoming the reality that she's dead," he said as his father waited for police approval to clean the room where his wife was shot dead.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on December 20, 2006