Widow, son tortured, robbed on farm
Sphumelele Mngoma & Stephanie Saville
Pietermaritzburg - An elderly Wartburg farm owner and her son are recovering in hospital after surviving a brutal attack at the hands of six armed men on Tuesday night.
They were beaten with knobkerries, asphyxiated with plastic bags and doused with boiling water.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said the men pounced on Barbara Wortmann, 76, and her son Etcel, 45, armed with handguns and knobkerries.
It is understood that the men had gained entry into their home through the kitchen door, which Wortmann had left unlocked when she went to collect firewood.
“It is alleged that the men demanded money and proceeded to assault both victims. They also poured boiling water from a kettle on both victims,” said Jeevan.
'Callous and savage'
The robbers fled the scene in the Wortmanns’ white Ford Bantam with registration number NH 10212.
The assailants also escaped with two firearms, a .22 rifle and a shotgun, which were removed from a safe.
Horst Wortmann, the oldest son, who lives in Durban, described the attack as “callous and savage”.
“It is a senseless attack on an elderly woman. My brother is harmless and non-aggressive. They were beaten quite severely,” he told The Witness.
He said his family were of German descent and had been in the area since the early 1900s. "It is the first attack on this farm.
“What made this more traumatic is the fact that we lost my father on March 18 and we were recovering from that.”
The Witness understands that there was a similar attack on the Wortmann’s neighbours about three months ago.
Rod Freese, chairperson of the Mshwati Agricultural Union, praised the police for having formed a task team promptly to make arrests. He urged farmers to upgrade their security and to be vigilant.
Koos Marais of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union’s security desk said the violence used against the Wortmanns was “most alarming”.
“Unfortunately this trend will continue while the justice system allows for easy bail and soft prison sentences.
“Surely the rights of soft targets and victims should be recognised,” said Marais.
Wortmann and her son were admitted to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
Their doctor advised them not to speak to the media on Wednesday. A hospital spokesperson confirmed that the pair are not in the intensive care unit and are in a stable condition.
Jeevan said the incident happened around 18:30.
The family dog, which went missing, was shot at during the robbery, but escaped with minor injuries.