Thursday, 6 August 2009

'Our ten minutes of hell'

Zelda Venter

August 05 2009 at 05:18AM

The widow of murdered British citizen Fred Picton-Turbervill told the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday of the 10 minutes of hell that changed the lives of her four young children for ever: one minute the six were enjoying dinner together, the next her husband had been shot in the head.

Ursula Picton-Turbervill remained calm as she recalled the events of January 5, 2008 when intruders entered their Waterkloof Ridge home, but she broke down when she told the court she now had to care for their four children alone.

"I am now a single mother bringing up my children without a father. He was the pivot of our lives," she said, adding that her children had been afraid ever since.

Petro Markel, 27, of Tembisa, and Cristovao Fresco Ndima, 20, of Mozambique, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

They shook their heads vigorously as an interpreter asked them how they pleaded.

They declined to give an explanation of plea and said they chose to remain silent at this stage.

Mrs Picton-Turbervill said the family were having dinner while watching television when they heard the dogs barking in the kitchen.

Her husband assumed the dogs wanted to go out and went to open the door for them.

He went out with their small dog and the children followed them.

"I noticed the hair on our Labrador's back was raised and he seemed to be frightened about something. I followed my husband and asked him to be careful as the big dog seemed scared."

Mrs Picton-Turbervill said the children were walking in front of her when she suddenly saw someone at the bottom of the garden.

"My husband shouted at us to run and I grabbed the children and ran back into the house."

She wanted to lock the children in a room adjacent to the dining room, but Ndima was suddenly next to them and knocked her cellphone out of her hand.

"He put a gun to my head and told me to 'sleep'. The children and I then went down on the floor."

Mr Picton-Turbervill was brought into the house by Markel and he too was told to lie on the floor.

His wife said while Ndima aimed his firearm at all of them, Markel went through the drawers of a desk and took several cellphones.

Ndima then began to harass her husband by kicking him and stomping on his back while going through his pockets.

"At the same time No 1 (Markel) came around the dining room table. No 2 (Ndima) stepped back against the wall and No 1 shot my husband in the head. My husband slumped against me.

"No 2 then came to me and held his gun against my head. He said, 'Money, money'. He pulled me off the floor and while No 1 stood with his gun pointed at my children, No 2 followed me down the passage."

They went to the bedroom area, where Mrs Picton-Turbervill tried to find goods for the two.

She said Ndima took digital cameras from a cupboard and he took her jewellery box with items worth about R20 000.

She was directed back to her children in the dining room and she lay down, half-covering them.

The five of them lay still for some time.

When she thought all was over, she tried to phone for help, but the intruders had cut the phone line.

She then took the children out of the house to find help.

Her husband was alive, but died in hospital.

Mrs Picton-Turbervill estimated that the attack had lasted between five and 10 minutes.

She had no doubt that the two accused were the attackers.

She described in detail how she identified them.

Markel, she said, had a "funny, mangled and long-lobed ear" and a slim face. Ndima had a scar on his face and round, large eyes.

The accused walked up to the Bench and Judge Ephraim Makgoba noted the scar and the "funny, long-lobed ear".

This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on August 05, 2009


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