July 03 2009 at 09:17AM
Despite being hit over the head repeatedly with a garden spade, renowned South African criminologist Professor Anna van der Hoven continued to fight off her attacker.
The 64-year-old Unisa-based criminologist's struggle lasted several minutes until she lost consciousness as her attacker, who had been building a water feature in her garden for her, throttled her and tried to smother her on the lawn of her Lyttelton home before he punched her bloodied and bruised face over and over again.
The attacker, believing she was dead, ran into Van der Hoven's Glover Avenue home before he fled with a laptop, handbag and cash, leaving her bleeding profusely from her wounds.
But unknown to him, the domestic worker of Van der Hoven's neighbour had spotted him as he fled from the scene and alerted police, who caught him moments later as he fled along Lenchen Avenue.
'She is still traumatised and does not want to speak about what happened'
At the time of going to press, Van der Hoven declined, through her nephew, Fritz Cloete, to speak to the Pretoria News about her ordeal.
However, Cloete painted a grim picture about what had happened. "She is still traumatised and does not want to speak about what happened, but what I can say is that it was a bloody and brutal attack."
Cloete recalled his aunt's description of the attack, which occurred shortly after the labourer's supervisors left to collect supplies for the water feature.
"He was waiting for her, and as she walked out of her house to bring him a cup of tea, he leapt at her and hit over the head again and again with a spade.
"It took my aunt completely by surprise. I do not think she even knew what was happening or who was attacking her," he said.
'She remembers trying to break free and screaming'
He described Van der Hoven's recollection of how she fell to the ground and then desperately tried to break free from her attacker's hands as her face was pushed into the soil before the 28-year-old man tried to strangle her.
"She remembers trying to break free and screaming and trying to get out of the grip, but the rest is a blank. She remembers up until then, but then nothing else, because when he was on top of her strangling and punching her, she passed out," he said.
Cloete said Van der Hoven, who had lived alone with her cats at her Drummorgan security complex for the past year, was traumatised by what had happened.
"Although she has been moved out of the intensive care unit to a general ward, she is still very sore. She is battling to speak and has a neck brace on."
He added that she had deep gashes to the back of her head.
Cloete, in describing his aunt, who has worked at Unisa all her professional life, said that while she was loving and kind and not threatening, she was no pushover. "The evidence of this is the way she fought back when she was attacked."
Unitas Hospital spokesperson Melisha Pather said Van der Hoven had been moved out of the intensive care unit and was recovering in a general ward.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on July 03, 2009