February 19 2009 at 06:32AM
A Pretoria mother of three and her mother-in-law are in serious condition in a city hospital after they both miraculously survived gunshot wounds to the head and hours of torture during an armed robbery.
Edri Myburgh, 26, and her mother-in-law, Anna Myburgh, 55, who were apparently tortured with a hot iron and knives, were attacked on Wednesday allegedly by the family gardener and his friend at their Bronkhorstspruit home.
The vicious assault occurred after Anna's husband, Hans, got involved in an argument with the gardener over household items that went missing last week.
The two men, armed with a .38 special revolver and 3.65mm Browning, allegedly launched their assault shortly after Hans left for work. The gardener is believed to have stolen the guns earlier in the week.
'When I saw the gun I knew something was wrong'
After gaining entry into the house and overpowering the family's domestic worker, Paulina Zithobeni, the two attacked Anna as she was preparing for the day.
It is believed Anna, who was confronted in a passageway, tried to fight back before she was overcome and stabbed repeatedly. She was then tied up and burnt with a hot iron as the men demanded guns and money.
The two were disturbed when Edri stopped outside the house to visit her mother-in-law.
She eventually got in after refusing to leave, despite Zithobeni being forced at gunpoint to tell her that her mother-in-law was not home.
The men hit her repeatedly over the head until she collapsed. The gunmen then allegedly tied her up before she was tortured.
The attackers, with their loot stashed in the family's car, then forced the three women into the vehicle moments before Hans arrived home.
He apparently came home when he could not raise his wife, Zothobeni or daughter-in-law on their cellphones or the home telephone. Greeted by blood smears throughout the house, Myburgh telephoned police who started a massive search.
Police using specialised technology began tracing the trio blocking off the N4 highway and the old Bronkhorstspruit Road after they were alerted through informers that money had been drawn from the victims' accounts in Witbank.
Unbeknown to police, until nearly three hours later, was that after drawing money, the gunmen drove their victims to an old farm road near Spitskop where they shot them. Anna was shot in the back of the head while the gunmen stripped Edri before shooting her in the mouth.
They apparently forced Zithobeni back into the car.
Police were alerted to the whereabouts of the gunmen shortly after they crashed the Myburgh's family car when the driver lost control on a dirt road. Both were arrested.
Farmer Willem Theron, who was working in his field next to the road, unwittingly helped the gunmen escape when he ran to help them.
Theron became suspicious and alerted police when he spotted a gun lying next to the car as the men walked off to call "friends" for help.
"When I saw the gun I knew something was wrong. I did not know they had just shot two women. If I had, I would never have helped them," he said.
Edri, after regaining consciousness and seeing Anna lying "dead" next to her, walked 12km through thick bushes and fields to a farmhouse for help.
Gaining consciousness Anna was able to crawl to a dirt road where she flagged down a passing motorist.
Both women were taken to Bronkhorstspruit Hospital.
Confirming that his father and the gardener had argued over missing household items, Edri's husband, Henk Myburgh, said they were devastated. "Our children do not know what is going on. How do I explain this to my nine-month-old son, Hein? How do I tell his sisters, Simoné, 2, and Joanet, 6, that their mommy and granny have been shot?" Myburgh asked.
Unable to reach his wife on the phone, Myburgh said he feared the worst. "When she did not answer I panicked. I did not know what to think. I thought that she was dead. I thought that the love of my life was gone," he said, describing how his father, Hans, had telephoned him in a panic to say that the house was a bloodbath.
He said there was blood everywhere. "In the bedroom, the lounge and the kitchen. Everywhere you looked there was blood.
"You could see that they had put up a hell of a fight," he said.
"They tortured them with hot irons and knives. They beat them. They made them beg for their lives. Not even animals do this," he said.
Police said the men had been charged with two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, possession of unlicensed firearms, ammunition and stolen property and vehicle theft. They will appear in court soon.
A Pretoria East Hospital spokesperson said both women were in a serious condition.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on February 19, 2009