Couple lose everything after robbers burn down house

2017-07-26 13:11

Pretoria - A woman whose thatched roof house outside Pretoria was burnt down by robbers, says she won't bother collecting things ever again.

A dejected Marinda Koppel, 50, believes she and her husband Alan, 62, will have to postpone their retirement because they lost everything in the fire, Netwerk24 reported.

Robbers broke into their house in the Downbern area, northeast of Pretoria, at about 03:30 on Friday and then set it alight.
Marinda was in Zambia for work and Alan in Polokwane.


Intruders broke into and burned down the thatched roof home belonging to the Koppel family, which had one room on the first floor. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

The Koppels were in the process of selling the house. "The transfer documents  would have been submitted next week. Now the transaction [with the buyer] has been cancelled," said Marinda.

Marinda's father, Baltus Bester, 71, and Selina Ndlovu, the housekeeper who looked after him while the Koppels were away, were at home when the robbers struck.

Bester, who is ill and under heavy sedation, was sleeping in the lounge, Marina said.

Joseph Khampe, 57, who works on the smallholding, said he was in his room when Ndlovu phoned him and said: "There are people here!"

He said "several" intruders "struggled" with the doors to the house and broke open a security gate.

They also threw stones.

Ndlovu phoned the police and neighbours.

The intruders set fire to the garage, which is next to the house.

The fire spread quickly because of the thatched roof. Khampe's room, which was a few metres from the house, was also gutted.

Bester said he had woken up when he heard the lounge window shatter.

The police were there shortly after that. "They said: 'Come! The house is burning!'"

He said he didn't see any of the culprits.


Joseph Khampe, a worker on the smallholding, stands in his room after it was ruined in the fire. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

Bester's fairly new car, which had been in the garage, was destroyed. A car outside the garage was also burnt to a cinder.

Marinda says her father fled from the house with just the pyjamas he was wearing.

They don't know if the robbers made off with anything. The contents of the safe melted.

When she later returned to the gutted house and touched her pearls in the safe, they just crumbled.

Just two coffee cups stayed intact.

Two cats died, one of which's body was found in the swimming pool. Another cat was found hiding in a tree, and their fourth cat is still missing.

None of the residents were injured.

Khampe, who now lives in a flat which wasn't damaged, says he is scared that the robbers might come back. "Then I’m dead."

Members of the community started donating clothes, food, furniture and toiletries immediately after hearing about the fire.

"Bakkies full," said Monique Möller, Marinda's daughter.

The Koppels and Bester are staying with Möller and her husband Giel.


Marinda's father, Baltus Bester fled the house in pyjamas after being woken up by a shattering window. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

"I can’t understand why someone would set my things alight. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

"I had hand-painted plates from England in the house for 17 years because they were worth something.

"I won’t collect anything again. What’s the use of it?" Marinda wanted to know.

She says it is sad that she’s now wearing other people’s stockings.

The fire "is a way of bringing one back to earth", she said.

Police in Pretoria East has yet to respond to written inquiries concerning the incidence.


Read more on:    pretoria  |  crime  |  fires

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