Little Rock dies in accident

By Drum Digital
01 September 2010

THE day started like any other – bright and early, as the taxi arrived shortly after 5.30 am to pick up the youngest member of the family for school. Eleven-year-old Lisel Augis sat on her parents’ bed while her father helped her put on her shoes. “The other schools are closed and the teachers are striking – stay home with Daddy,” Paul Augis said teasingly. He’s a house painter and work is slow in Cape Town in winter. “No, Daddy,” she replied. “It will be boring at home. Let me go.”

The taxi, driven by Jacob Humphreys, arrived at 5.40 am and Lisel climbed in and opened the window. “I want you to come and say goodbye to me again,” she shouted at her mother. Ingrid Augis smiled and shook her head. “See you this afternoon!” she shouted at her daughter.

“Heat up some soup for me,” Lisel yelled before the vehicle disappeared. That was the last time Ingrid and Paul saw their child alive. Lisel, along with nine other children, lost her life when a train ploughed into the minibus after the taxi driver ignored all warnings and drove across the tracks.

“The next time we saw her was in the morgue,” Ingrid says quietly. “We were called to indentify her body at three in the afternoon. There wasn’t a mark on her body. She didn’t look frightened – she looked as if she’d wake up at any moment.”

The fact their child seemed so peaceful is comforting to Paul and Ingrid. She didn’t look as if she’d suffered – and after all the suffering she endured after her horror ordeal four years ago, that is something.

Lisel, or Little Rock as she’d been dubbed, was lured into bushes by Abraham James, a family friend, on 5 November 2006. He indecently assaulted and raped her before beating her head with a rock and stabbing her. He then set her body alight and left her for dead. But Lisel crawled out of the flames and defied the odds by surviving – and promptly became a national heroine.

For a while she wore a burka to cover her scars and hide her identity as she fought to recover both psychologically and physically. I met the little girl in June 2008 at her parents’ modest home in Electric City, Eerste River, on the Cape Flats. James had just been jailed for 28 years and the atmosphere in the little house was alive with hope.

Now I sit in the same room, a chill August wind blowing through the open lounge door. On the wall are photographs of Lisel and I can see the scars on her face have faded in the two years since I last saw her. “She was completely healthy,” Ingrid says. “She no longer had to hide her face.”

Read the full article in DRUM of 9 September 2010

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