Tuesday, 19 February 2008

‘I saw the worst of humanity’

Indomitable: Seventeen-year-old Jamie Paterson, a prefect at Roedean, has refused to allow the attack to break her spirit, and says she has seen the best of humanity as the community rallied around her family. Picture: James Oatway

Henriëtte Geldenhuys

Published:Dec 09, 2007

Now her family face a difficult decision: Do they stay in a country where they will never feel safe?

Seventeen-year-old Jamie Paterson was asleep when five “psychopathic sadists” invaded her family’s Johannesburg home.

She was dragged out of bed. As four of them terrorised her mother, father and nine-year-old brother, the fifth pulled her into a bathroom and raped her. Then he told her matter- of-factly that he was HIV-positive.

But the feisty teenager is fighting back and a week after the rape managed to play her matric flute exam.

“We saw the worst of humanity,” she told the Sunday Times on Friday, “but then afterwards we saw the best of humanity as everyone banded together to support us.”

So far two HIV tests have come back negative. Now she wants her family’s story to be a warning.

“I’m not ashamed of what happened. I am a victim of a crime. It’s not my fault. It could have happened to anyone.”

South Africans are increasingly unsafe in their own homes despite — and sometimes because of — the high walls, alarm systems, armed security guards, electric fences and other extraordinary measures they take to protect themselves.

Police statistics released this week showed a 7% increase in house robberies over the past six months and a staggering 29.3% increase in business robberies.

Armed robbers roam free and only 10% of them are ever caught.

This is despite the fact that there are an average of 330 aggravated robberies in South Africa every day — about 120 000 each year.

Commissioner Chris de Kock, the head of police statistics, says “wanton violence and mindless cruelty” is prevalent in house robberies.

De Kock said house robberies and business robberies touched the “very essence of personal privacy and security of every individual in South Africa”.

And the crimes make newspaper headlines, creating an “international image of South Africa which is not conducive to investment and tourism”.

Among the most shocking house robberies reported this year:

# An attack in Mpumalanga last Sunday in which robbers cut off four of 70-year-old Hettie Janse van Rensburg’s fingers with pruning scissors;

# An attack in September in Craighall Park, Johannesburg, by a trio of robbers in which the homeowner, Mike Thompson, was stabbed 14 times, shot in the chest and in the back of the head before being dumped in his swimming pool;

# An attack in April, in which two- year-old toddler Tsahai Okiekwe was shot in the head and killed. The gang of four murdered her because she started crying;

# Another attack in April in which 68-year-old Sandy Staats was tortured and so badly burnt with boiling water that she died in hospital a week later;

House robberies occur predominantly in Gauteng and KwaZulu- Natal.

Gauteng accounted for nearly half of all house robberies committed between April and September this year: 3568 out of a country-wide total of 6 711. Just over a quarter of house robberies — 1648 in total— happened in KwaZulu-Natal .

Each of the other provinces reported fewer than 400 house robberies during the six month period with the Free State recording 75 and the Northern Cape just three.

Now, like so many other crime victims, the Paterson family are facing a difficult decision: do they flee South Africa, leaving behind friends and family, or do they stay in a country where they will never feel completely safe?

Their assailants were all in their teens or early 20s . Five of them stormed the house at 10.20pm on October 2. A sixth waited outside in a getaway car.

They tied the family up and then, for an hour and a half, they terrorised them.

“The robbers were full of bravado,” Jamie’s father — Alan Paterson, professor of anatomical pathology at Wits University — recalled this week. “They enjoyed every bit of the attack. It was brutal.”

Throughout, Jamie was convinced the men were going to kill them.

“I feel so much anger and hatred,” she said this week. “An indescribable fury for what they did to us and how cruelly they treated us, as if we were not human.

“And how they damaged us all for the future.”

Jamie — a prefect at Roedean High School — was separated and led away by one of the thugs.

When he had finished, the rapist locked the bathroom door, telling Jamie he was doing so to “protect” her from his cohorts who would almost certainly also rape and then kill her.

Meanwhile, the men threw a duvet over Alan Paterson’s head, and beat his wife Bronwyn, a former Pact ballet dancer, into a near coma.

Paterson could only listen to her screams as the robbers pistol- whipped her and then stabbed her in the back of the head and neck with a pair of scissors.

“All the time they kept shouting at her: ‘You f***ing white bitch.’ ”

The thugs broke three of her ribs, smashed her nose and tore off a part of her ear.

“The violence against my wife and daughter was incredibly cruel. There was no need to hurt them. We co-operated fully.”

The robbers fled with the family’s two cars, jewellery, medals, cameras, television sets, a DVD player, speakers and a microwave.

“Everybody is incredibly traumatised,” Paterson said. “The emotional wounds will take a long time to heal.”

Nevertheless, the family were determined not to let the attack destroy their lives. A week later, nine- year-old Angus played his piano exam, and Jamie played her matric practical flute exam, even as she fought off the possibility of an HIV infection.

For four weeks, Jamie was on a cocktail of anti-retroviral pills . Two days after she finished the course, she wrote the rest of her matric exams.

“After two weeks [of anti-retrovirals], she could barely walk. She had muscle pain, she was constantly nauseous and tired. She had a rash from head to toe,” her father said.

According to her mother, “she was so ill that my husband had to carry her to school at times”.

Said Paterson: “I don’t have a great deal of faith in our leaders. Crime is so bad, it’s low-level warfare. I don’t see a solution. There is no real will to deal with crime, education or health.

“I want my family in an environment where they feel safe, where they can walk into a city and not live behind walls and fences. [South Africa] is a sick society and rape is a pastime.”

Source:The Times

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