Tuesday, 29 September 2009

'The worst day of our lives'

September 28 2009 at 07:41AM

By Jacques Breytenbach

"They killed my sister for a cellphone, and also nearly killed my brother-in-law. It was the worst day of our lives."

These were the words of a distraught Hane Rumsey, whose sister Isabel Schonken died on Saturday after being shot in the heart on a smallholding in Welbekend, east of Pretoria.

Her husband, Lars, is undergoing surgery at the Life Little Company of Mary Hospital in Groenkloof today. A metal plate will be surgically inserted into his skull in an attempt to repair the open fracture he suffered after being hit over the head with a blunt object during the attack.

At about 2.30am on Saturday, Schonken's eldest daughter, Sonija Smit, who lives with her husband Thinus in a house on the same plot as her parents, received a call from her father, telling her there were robbers in their house.

Thinus went to investigate. But the robbers had already fled with Schonken's cellphone, leaving Thinus with the grim task of assessing the 56-year-old Lars's injuries.

When Thinus found Lars, he was bleeding profusely from a deep head wound and asking where his wife Isabel was.

Thinus found 55-year-old Schonken lying dead on the floor of the guest toilet, near the front door of the house, shot through the chest. "My first priority was to get Lars to the hospital as fast as I could," Thinus said, adding that after he notified the police, he put his injured father-in-law into his car and drove to Wilgers Hospital.

Rumsey, who also lives in a cottage on the property, said there was an attempted break-in two weeks ago. She said that on Saturday the whole family had been caught off guard. "I did not hear a thing throughout the whole incident - not a gunshot, or a dog barking, or anyone screaming. I only woke up just before Sonija phoned me. It was the strangest thing," Rumsey said.

Lars was beaten badly with what seems to have been a wooden object with some sort of metal tip.

At some stage during the attack, Lars regained consciousness, opened the safe and shot at one of the robbers. It has not been confirmed yet if the robber was injured but a source close to the investigation said Lars had hit and injured one of them.

Rumsey said it appears as if Schonken had fallen asleep in front of the television and was woken by a gunshot. She added that despite electric fences and motion detection alarms on the property, the robbers managed to gain entry into the house.

"These guys knew exactly what they were doing. They have been watching our movements on the plot for a while now," she said.

Rumsey said her sister was a "very" strong character.

"It is a great loss to the family. The family is trying to be strong through this difficult time. All we can do is take it a day at a time," Rumsey said.

Smit said they were still waiting for the autopsy results.

"It's a very difficult time for us children. But we are dealing with it as best we can," she said.

Schonken leaves behind her eldest child and only son, Francois, and three daughters, Smit, Karin, and Alma.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Sanet Lourens said no arrests had been made.

Lourens said Bronkhorstspruit police had asked for and received three more police patrol cars from Pretoria to clamp down on the recent spate of violent crime in the rural areas around the city's east.

"We are monitoring the situation and want to ensure the greater Bronkhorstspruit, Boschkop, Cullinan and Welbekend communities that we are doing our best to bring the perpetrators of these violent crimes to book," said Lourens.

Meanwhile, Barry Bateman reports that Robert Anderson, 47, who was shot during a robbery at his home near Bronkhorstspruit, is "doing very well" following surgery on Friday. Anderson's son James, 18, was shot dead in the incident which took place at about 1am on Friday. Anderson was shot several times in the upper body.

James ran to his parents' bedroom and struggled with the gunman. A second gunman shot him in the back. He died on the scene.

No arrests have been made.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on September 28, 2009


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