Sunday, 15 November 2009

War pilot pensioner beaten to death

November 14 2009 at 10:59AM

By Greame Hoskens
Crime Reporter

A Pretoria pensioner, who fought and survived both World War 2 and the Korean War as a fighter pilot, was found bludgeoned to death at his home.

Frans Swemmer, 89, was found dead in the garage of his Waterkloof home yesterday morning by his girlfriend of 14 years, Anita Stander, 71.

Stander discovered Swemmer's badly battered body lying sprawled in the passage of his Orion Street home where he had been dragged from the garage.

'When I spoke to them later they said they could not see anything that was suspicious'

A blood trail and a brown leather shoe outside the front door indicated from where Swemmer's killers had dragged him into his house.

It is believed that Swemmer, whose white Mercedes-Benz, pistol, clothes and household appliances were stolen, was beaten on the head with a sledgehammer at about 7pm on Thursday night after he went to investigate the theft of beers from his fridge in the garage.

Within hours of Swemmer's body being found yesterday, police arrested a man driving his car in Hammanskraal.

Word of a suspect's arrest quickly spread throughout Orion Street as neighbours and friends telephoned one another to tell of the arrest.

A neighbour, who declined to be named, said he hoped the police would "kill the bastard".

Sitting on the grass pavement outside Swemmer's home as police forensic investigators searched for clues, Stander said the last time she spoke to Swemmer was when he had telephoned her at 6pm to say that thieves had stolen his beers.

While police took fingerprints from a black palisade fence outside the home, Stander described what she saw when she found Swemmer's body. "I could not believe it. It was awful. How could someone do that to a person who was so kind and caring? It is absolutely humiliating and degrading to die like that," she said.

Stander said she had become worried when Swemmer's neighbour and close friend, Martie Kotze, 76, telephoned her on Thursday night to tell her that something was wrong at Swemmer's house.

"She told me that the garage door was open and that the lights were on, but she could not see him or his car. I thought it was strange and tried to phone him, but his home phone just rang and his cellphone was off.

"I became worried because I had spoken to him earlier.

"I told him to phone the police and he said he would and then he would phone me back, but he never did and now he never will," she said, adding that Swemmer had fought in World War 2 and the Korean War as a fighter pilot for the South African Air Force.

It is believed that Swemmer's killers surprised and overpowered him when he went back to his garage after talking to Stander.

Stander, who described Swemmer as a friendly, but quiet person who kept to himself, said she told Kotze to phone his security company. "They sent out patrols twice but could not find him.

"I do not understand how they could not see the blood in the open garage or the blood trail. It just does not make any sense, especially when they reported that there was nothing wrong at the house," she said angrily, adding that when the guards arrived yesterday she had already found Swemmer.

Martie Kotze confirmed she had telephoned the company several times and asked them to check on Swemmer. "When I spoke to them later they said they could not see anything that was suspicious and that the house was all locked up. I thought it strange, but thought that Frans had maybe gone out to visit a friend," she said.

Stander said that she and Swemmer had been very close friends for 14 years and had done many things together. "We often went out and he was my very close friend. I had a very special place for him in my heart," she said, while she was comforted by her daughter Anita Botha.

Police spokeswoman Lynnette Erasmus confirmed that a man had been arrested and taken in for questioning after he was found driving Swemmer's car in Hammanskraal.

"The man was arrested shortly after police circulated a description of the car," she said.

She said when police arrived they found the entire house ransacked and a blood trail leading from the garage to the house. "In the garage police found a hammer and a large pool of blood, and blood all over the walls," she said.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on November 14, 2009


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