Sunday, 1 April 2007

Dad's battle for justice pays off

Helen Bamford

March 31 2007 at 04:25PM

A relentless two-year battle for justice paid off for a Meadowridge father this week when two men who attacked his teenage sons at home were sentenced to a combined total of 111 years in jail.

But the Crossroads men will actually serve 15 and 20 years respectively.

Tony Schreiber, a restaurant owner, refused to give up despite a series of frustrating delays, postponements and occasional no-shows by the opposing legal team.

In the two years he barely missed a single court appearance and refused to take "no" for an answer.

He drove the process personally, from getting 850 signatures from neighbours to present to the court asking for bail to be denied (which it was), to demanding an alternative investigating officer when the first one did not appear motivated. He even complained loudly and often in court when proceedings started late.

But this week the family could breathe a sigh of relief as the perpetrators were handed stiff sentences, even though a third suspect was freed.

Schreiber told Weekend Argus how the drama unfolded and its effect on his family, who he has asked not be named.

It happened one morning in February 2005.

Schreiber and his wife were in Johannesburg on business when they received the telephone call every parent dreads.

Their sons, aged 19 and 14, had been at home with their domestic worker of 21 years when they were attacked and shots were fired.

Details were sketchy but Schreiber immediately started making calls to the security company, their family doctor, and to an airline to get the first flight home.

He arrived to hear the chilling story of how close his sons and the domestic worker had come to being crime statistics.

Schreiber says his older son, wearing boxer shorts, had gone out to check the pool pump around 8.40am when three armed men hiding in the garden attacked him.

They smashed him in the face with the butt of a gun, and struggled to tie him up with cable ties.

A shot went off, waking the 14-year-old, who was sick and home from school.

He got out of bed to find a man rummaging through a drawer in the lounge, and ran to get a hockey stick to use as a weapon.

But the man chased him, put a knife to his throat, and frog-marched him through the house.

While his older brother was still fighting with the other two men, the youngster punched his captor in the face and hit a panic button.

The men began to flee, but one turned and pointed his gun at the younger boy and fired.

The boy survived thanks to the lightning-quick action of his older brother who slammed the door shut on the man's arm, causing the bullet to smash into the kitchen door instead.

All three intruders were arrested within 30 minutes by Diep River police officers.

Once back home, Schreiber built a wall around his house, got guard dogs, and decided to pursue the case.

"The cops were actually quite surprised when I told them I intended to pursue it. They told me that not many people bothered."

Schreiber said his family and their housekeeper had been irrevocably affected.

He said the justice system with its tardiness, apathy and disorganisation had been an eye-opener.

"Court started late, there were always breaks for tea and no one was prepared to work overtime. But I was determined to push it through, to drive the process and to never take no for an answer, which is an approach I urge anyone else in the same position to do."

This week Lwandiso Xundu was sentenced to 50 years in prison - 10 years each for two charges of attempted murder and 15 years each for two counts of armed robbery. They will run concurrently so he will serve 15 years.

Leon Qwabe was sentenced to 61 years - 20 years each for two counts of armed robbery and 10 years each for two counts of attempted murder. He was also found guilty of possession of a dangerous weapon for which he got one year. Because his sentence runs concurrently he will sit for 20 years. The third man was acquitted.

Schreiber said the judgment and sentence had come as a huge relief, but he was now determined to use the knowledge he gained during the experience to make sure other families did not suffer in the same way.

It led to him and fellow resident Brian Daniels forming a neighbourhood watch covering the suburbs of Bergvliet, Kreupelbosch and Meadowridge.

It is called BKM Crime Stop Watch and its objectives are for the community, police and security companies to work together not only to stop crime but to report all incidents happening in the area and get residents involved in taking charge of their own safety.

The area has been divided into separate zones with dedicated zone managers who are contactable 24 hours a day.

The organisation has two-way radios and a centralised emergency number - 0860 00 2669 - for residents to contact if they feel they need help.

"We want people to know that we are doing something and that we are around."

He urged residents to get involved on a personal level or business level.

"Only by working together can we make a difference," Schreiber added.

For more details call Brian Daniels on 084 512 7565.


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