December 10 2008 at 07:42AM
A man who was once one of Pretoria's most prominent primary school principals is fighting for his life in hospital after he was shot in the head while saving his daughter from a hijacker.
Joe Pretorius, 67, and his wife, Cathy, were saying goodbye to their daughter, Karen Pretorius, after celebrating their wedding anniversary on Monday night when they were attacked outside their Brooklyn home.
The attack took place as Pretorius, who had come to wish her parents well, was about to drive off.
Spotting the lone gunman running out from behind his daughter's car, Pretorius - the founding principal of Glenstantia Primary School - screamed out a warning, fearing that she would reverse into him.
His screams then turned into ones of horror when the man pulled out a gun and opened his daughter's car door.
Fearing the gunman would shoot his daughter Pretorius tackled the man to the ground as his wife tried to disarm him.
As the couple struggled with the gunman, he opened fire, shooting Pretorius in the head and the buttocks.
The bullet, which struck Pretorius above the right eye, severed one of his carotid arteries before lodging in his spine.
Pretorius, critically injured, managed to run into his garage where he pressed a panic button before collapsing.
Miraculously, the swelling from his injuries closed off the tear in his artery and stemmed the blood flow, possibly saving his life.
Family members on Tuesday said they were devastated by what had happened.
"We are battling," said his son, Rolf, adding that a brain scan had revealed that his father had suffered a severe stroke from his injuries. He said doctors had so far been unable to say what his father's prognosis would be.
"All that they can say is that the next two weeks will be critical," he said.
He added that doctors had battled throughout the early hours of Tuesday morning to stem the bleeding from a tear in the artery.
Rolf said the attack happened as his sister was leaving.
"As she started reversing, the gunman - who had been hiding behind the car - ran up to her and ripped open her car door and tried to drag her out.
"Dad saw what was happening and tackled the man.
"As they were struggling on the ground he was shot," he said, adding that the bullet had ricocheted inside his father's skull, severing the artery before lodging in his fourth vertebrae. He said they were devastated by what had happened.
"We are really battling and mom is taking this very badly.
"All we can do now is pray that dad will be alright," he said, adding that his dad had retired from Glenstantia Primary School six years ago.
Current Glenstantia Primary School principal, Hennie Pretorius, said the staff was devastated by what had happened.
"Joe and Cathy, who has been a Grade 1 teacher at the school for the past 10 years, are such wonderful people," he said.
Unitas Hospital spokesperson Melisha Pather said Pretorius remained in a critical condition in the hospital's trauma intensive care unit.
Police spokesperson Aveline Hardaker said a case of attempted murder and attempted armed robbery was being investigated.
She said no arrests had been made.
Anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of the gunman can contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on December 10, 2008