15/09/2008 09:44 - (SA)
Jackie Pienaar-Brink, Die Burger
Cape Town - The wife of a member of the team that carried out the world's first heart transplant was murdered in the early hours of Sunday morning in Hermanus.
The body of Lulu Hewitson, 84, was found in the foyer of her house at about 04:00. She had a stab wound to her back.
Her husband, Professor Rodney Hewitson, survived the attack as he was in another part of the house, said police spokesperson Superintendent André Traut. He was badly traumatised.
The elderly woman was murdered after she presumably pressed the panic button.
The suspects are believed to have gained entrance to the house through a living room window, which they took out. They fled the same way.
'Awful and ironic'
The murdered woman's husband was Professor Chris Barnard's right-hand man during the first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967.
"That he lost his wife in this way is awful and ironic," said Professor Johan Brink of the Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital's Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
"As a doctor, he had dedicated himself to the less fortunate. Over the years he helped hundreds of people who had been stabbed in the chest. He was an extremely committed doctor and a mentor for heart surgery all over the world."
One of the couple's sons, Dr John Hewitson, followed in his father's footsteps as a heart surgeon while another, Professor Bruce Hewitson of the University of Cape Town, is an internationally recognised climate expert. A third son is a pilot in Mozambique.
According to Traut, the motive was presumably housebreaking with the intention to steal possessions, though nothing valuable was missing.
No one has been arrested and the murder weapon is still missing.