Shocked church mourns after son’s arrest

2012-11-12 00:00

HARRISMITH — A congregation that was still in shock and mourning yesterday attended a tear-filled sermon in the Dutch Reformed Church Kerkenberg. Instead of their dominee Willem Brits (60), dominee Bobby Scherrer, Kerkenberg’s emeritus preacher, led the service.

He said there was not a community with so much grief as this Harrismith congregation after a man with an axe had killed their dominee and his future son-in-law, Gerhard Vermeulen (25), as well as critically injured his wife, Dorothea Brits (59).

The Brits couple’s son, Martin (28), was arrested on Friday night. His sister Thea, who lost her father and fiancé in the tragedy, and their brothers Dawid and Willie, were in the service. Thea burst into tears several times during the sermon.

Scherrer yesterday expressed his sympathy with the Brits children, who were all adopted at birth. He said the congregation would help and support them.

To give some clarity to the questions everyone in town had, Scherrer told the congregation that Martin was questioned and arrested by police because certain aspects of his answers did not make sense to them.

He told the congregation all the Brits children had been questioned as part of standard police procedure, and Thea, who was in the house during the attack, was questioned twice. She is, however, not a suspect.

Brits was reportedly hacked with an axe and shot on Thursday evening. He died the next morning in the Mediclinic in Bethlehem.

Vermeulen was hit in the head with an axe and died in the rectory. Dorothea, who was also hit in the head with an axe, was still in a critical condition in the Mediclinic Bloemfontein last night.

Thea (24) was tied up in the attack and not injured.

Her brother, Martin, initially said he was told by an intruder to tie his family and Vermeulen with cable ties before being knocked unconscious and left in the bath with his feet tied.

Shortly after the attack, a 30-year-old man from Mpumalanga was arrested next to the N3 with bloody clothes and some stolen items from the rectory.

Scherrer said after yesterday’s service that Martin Brits would be supported by his family.

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