Sunday, 17 August 2008

Platteland pensioners living in fear

August 16 2008 at 10:04AM

By Clayton Barnes

Retirees who have settled in the beautiful rural havens of the Western Cape because they are seen as safe places to spend their golden years are now being targeted by ruthless criminals.

Well-known elderly citizens, most of whom had used their lifetime savings to buy expensive retirement cottages in quiet towns, are being murdered in their homes.

Over the past two weeks alone, three people were murdered.

Two well-known families were hit by tragedy with the violent killings of relatives who opted to spend their retirement years in Kleinmond and Tulbagh, while a Bot River couple and two farm workers were tied up and held at gunpoint in a robbery.

Now residents of similar towns and villages fear for their lives.

Tulbagh resident Quintus Smit, who has lived in the area for the past 10 years, said Tulbagh had been "crime free" until about a year ago when burglaries, robberies and vehicle theft suddenly spiked.

"We don't feel safe here at all any more. The platteland used to be so safe, but now it's more dangerous than the city. Crime is moving closer to us.

"I used to discourage people from emigrating, but the number of murders, rapes and robberies we hear about every day is ridiculous. I'm definitely considering going."

Pensioner Tokkie Lombard said Tulbagh used to be a quiet place. "But now it's the complete opposite, everyone is talking about the high crime rate."

This week Robin McGregor, 79, was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of his Tulbagh home.

McGregor, who founded the business guide Who owns Whom, was probably killed about midnight on Monday.

Neighbours reportedly heard doors opening and closing and saw the house lights go on and off. The alarm was raised when police spotted three men driving McGregor's Mercedes in Bellville South on Tuesday.

The men were arrested and appeared in the Tulbagh Magistrate's Court on Thursday. They are still in custody.

During a visit to McGregor's well-kept home in Kriegler Street yesterday, his neighbour and friend Jeanette Jansen said he would be sorely missed.

"He was a lovely man and I don't think anyone deserved to die the way he did. He had just renovated his house and redone his garden; he was preparing for his retirement."

Jansen said McGregor moved into the house four months ago and had had a guest stay over on Monday night.

"They were sitting outside until about 8pm and then the guest left," she said.

"After that everything was quiet until just before midnight when I heard the dogs barking. I looked out the window and saw Robin's Mercedes drive off.

"Only the next morning after the police called us did we realise the people in the car were Robin's killers and not him."

Jansen said single pensioners and retired couples were no longer safe in Tulbagh.

Just a week earlier, Marie and Schalk van der Westhuizen, great aunt and uncle of model Minki van der Westhuizen, were stabbed to death in their home in Kleinmond.

A laptop computer, cellphones and one or two other items were stolen, but not much else.

The Van der Westhuizens, aged 73 and 78, were stabbed to death in their home just hours after Mrs Van der Westhuizen had celebrated her birthday with friends.

Their bodies were discovered in their ransacked house the following morning by a neighbour. Two men from the Overhills informal settlement, who police believe the couple had employed to do casual work, were arrested and are still in custody.

This week Minki van der Westhuizen, currently on a television shoot in Switzerland, spoke out about the murders.

She said the family was in great pain and hoped the slaying would highlight the plight of elderly citizens.

The Van der Westhuizens' daughter, Amanda Ellis, said the family was saddened by the incident and were taking it "one day at a time".

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Billy Jones said there had been a number of violent crime incidents in rural areas in the past few months.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Cape Argus on August 16, 2008


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