Elderly woman strangled after simple act of kindness

2012-04-10 00:00

A SIMPLE act of kindness —giving two men water at her front door — cost a 74-year-old St Mikes woman her life ahead of the Easter weekend.

Rita Coetzee’s body was found by her husband, Fanie, a manager at the Margate Hotel, when he arrived back from work on Thursday night.

She had been strangled with a scarf in the bathroom.

Margate police arrested a 23-year-old suspect in Gcilima, outside Ramsgate, on Sunday. He was charged with robbery and murder and will appear in the Ramsgate Magistrate’s Court today.

A second arrest is expected this week.

Fanie Coetzee (76) described how he found his wife’s ice-cold body in the bathroom.

“She looked as if she had suffocated. When I found her she had a few bruises on her face. It looks like she put up a bit of a fight,” he said.

Their eldest son, Pieter Coetzee, who lives in Cape Town told The Witness: “It’s a very sad time for our family and my father especially. They were married for 55 years and had four children.

“My mother was the most soft spoken, likable person I know. She believed a lot in religion and was always accommodating and helping people.”

Coetzee said his father had arrived home at about 7 pm to a house full of smoke and initially thought the house was on fire.

His father had thought his mother may have suffered a heart attack and that the fire was caused by the food left burning on the stove.

Instead, his father found his mother in the bathroom with a scarf around her neck.

“My mother spoke to my dad at 10 and to one of my sister’s just after 11 that morning. She normally prepares her lunch at 12 so it would have happened around that time.

“It appears that two men knocked on her door and asked her for water which she gave them. She then went on with her work and she didn’t take notice that they had climbed in through a very small window in the house.”

His mom’s killers tied her up in her bathroom and strangled her with a scarf. They left with a collection of wines, some jewellery and a few other items.

“It really was a senseless killing. There were vehicles in the garage, the keys were in the house, but they did not take them. It’s a big house, but most of the house was untouched,” he said. Coetzee was full of praise for the police and the swift arrest of a suspect.

“I have never seen such efficient policing before. We are very happy with the arrest and hard work by the Margate police. I hope that they (the killers) get locked away for a very long time. There is no place in society for people who can take advantage of an old frail person who cannot defend herself.”

Pieter said he was also amazed by the kindness of the people on the South Coast. “It is only at times like this that you realise how many people are there to support you.

“We have been most touched by the generosity and the assistance with accommodation and the kind words,” he said.

His mom’s funeral will take place at 10 am on Thursday at the Dutch Reformed Church.

In his reaction, police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said: “We urge elderly people to always keep their windows and doors locked and not open their door to strangers.”

“If they notice any suspicious behaviour in the yard they must contact the police immediately,” he said.

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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