January 12 2009 at 01:31PM
By Vivian Attwood
Residents of Ladysmith are living in fear after a gang of robbers raped two elderly women and broke into many homes recently.
The crime wave began mid-December, according to police spokesperson Captain Charmaine Struwig.
"The spate of burglaries coupled with the rapes has led to fear among residents, and a lot of misinformation is circulating," said Struwig.
"Figures of rape victims have been exaggerated in the re-telling of stories. There were two victims, not seven, as some have reported. The women, aged 58 and 74, were attacked in their homes during two separate robberies.
"In other incidents, homeowners have been assaulted, and one was stabbed. The wound was not serious, however. A woman was also throttled during a robbery."
Struwig said a police task team had been formed to track down the criminals. "We are receiving a lot of support from security companies, which have stepped up patrols," she said. "We are looking for five to seven suspects. They arm themselves with knives before committing crimes."
A meeting was convened on Thursday in the Ladysmith Town Hall. Its purpose, said Struwig, was to dispel misinformation and explain to the community what was being done to curb the crime wave.
While the community is gripped by fear, one resident has relocated with his family. Clive Strydom, an environmental science officer, said he was not prepared to risk his wife or daughter being attacked.
"The past few weeks have been absolutely hectic," he said. "I know the women who were raped. The husband of one was forced to watch while his wife was violated."
This article was originally published on page 3 of Daily News on January 12, 2009