Woman kidnapped by robbers describes 52-hour ordeal

2008-03-26 00:00

Ohrigstad — “Don’t wake anyone; they’ll think you’re a robber. Wait till it’s light.”

This was the last thing said to Hennielene Botha (46) by her kidnappers who dropped her off in a trust area 36 km north of Hoedspruit yesterday morning at 3 am.

By then Botha had been in the boot of her own car for about 52 hours, while her kidnappers drove around Mpumalanga and Limpopo in it.

At the Iketla Lodge outside Ohrigstad yesterday, Botha related what had happened to her since she had been kidnapped from her house on Saturday night.

Botha was in bed at about 10 pm when she heard noises in the house.

She thought it was her husband coming to bed, but he was still busy with guests at the lodge.

“I was just about to jump up when a man appeared in my room. Two more men came in with sawn-off shotguns. They pushed me into a corner and started going through our things.

“The leader of the group told me he was unemployed and that this was his business. He didn’t want to hurt me, he just wanted money.”

The robbers found the Bothas’ bank cards and asked her to write down the PIN codes, which she proceeded to do.

They then tied her to a chair and left the room.

A few minutes later they came back and said that Botha had to go with them so that they could draw money.

Botha, who had only been wearing her nightdress, grabbed a skirt before she left the house.

She was forced into her car on the driver’s side. They went to Pench, outside Burgersfort, where the robbers tried to draw money.

“The robbers came back and said they wouldn’t let me go if I didn’t give them the correct PIN code. I told them that it was the correct PIN code. I really did give them the right PIN code.”

They then, again unsuccessfully, tried to draw money in Steelpoort. Botha was then loaded into the car’s boot where she lay until yesterday morning when she was dropped off.

“One almost feels safe in the boot,” she said. “Rather in the boot and away from them than being among them.

“We drove on many gravel roads. They even stopped at a shebeen once, bought alcohol and drank it.

“At one stage they also slept for two hours.

“On Sunday they told me they would set me free on Monday. Then I still had hope.”

Yesterday, at about 12.15 pm, the kidnappers attacked and robbed foreign tourists outside Graskop.

“I heard someone say that Graskop wasn’t too far. I banged against the boot and shouted, ‘Help me, help me!

“They jumped in the car and sped away …”

According to Botha, Beeld reader Ronel Swart made the connection between the kidnapping and the robbing of the tourists after seeing the article in Beeld.

The police, and members of the community and of the Ohrigstad farmer’s organisation launched an intense search in the Graskop area.

Botha was dropped off shortly after 3 am yesterday. She hid in an outside toilet where an older woman came upon her. She tried to explain to the old woman and her family what had happened to her, but they did not understand. A baker who happened to come along could speak Afrikaans and eventually the police were called.

An inspector fetched Botha and took her to shower and to contact her husband.

“I’m alive and I’m unharmed. They didn’t touch me. I’m extremely grateful,” she said.

Her husband Albert said that when he fetched her yesterday the sun had never shone as brightly and his wife had never looked so beautiful.

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