Man tells of his ordeal at the hands of home invaders

2008-03-22 00:00

Kloof man Chris du Plessis immediately recognised as his own a watch referred to in last week’s Weekend Witness article about two burglar kingpins being brought down by police.

The watch, a gold Pierre Cardin, was one of a pair presented to his mother for 25 years’ service with Metrorail. Du Plessis’s mother gave the watches to him on his marriage.

Earlier this month the pair of watches, along with other goods, were taken off Du Plessis in a brutal home invasion. The man arrested with his goods now faces 20 years or more in jail for his role in the robbery.

It was around 3 am when Du Plessis woke up with a knife being forced against his throat. He and his wife Bronwyn, recently married, were in the process of completing their new home. Now the pair have resolved to emigrate. Bronwyn, a teacher, is pregnant and the couple are adamant that, as soon as their child can travel, they will be moving to New Zealand.

The gang who robbed the couple have, Weekend Witness can reveal, never held jobs and never attempted to better themselves.

Du Plessis is under no illusion as to how close he came to grief: “We are so lucky. That night Bronwyn and I had an argument and she was in the other side of the house. When the gang got in it was only me in the bedroom.”

The gang tied his legs and hands, using his wife’s maternity dresses. The bindings were so tight that weeks after the robbery Du Plessis, a diabetic, still feels tingling in his hands. If the blood is cut off for sufficient time the tissue in the limbs dies — and amputation becomes necessary.

But the binding was the least of his worries. One gang member kept prodding him in his ribs with the knife, drawing blood. Another, who had picked up a garden fork on the way in, began to beat him. They kept demanding keys to a safe. When he said he did not have one, the beating intensified.

“There must have been inside information. They kept asking where my wife was — they knew her name and kept asking where Bronwyn was. It was terrifying. And this has made us both decide we need to emigrate.”

Bronwyn told Weekend Witness that she and Chris had planned to make their home in SA. “Now we just want out. My parents are helping us … They are also planning on moving.”

Du Plessis said he was bound for just under an hour. During this time the gang moved around his home helping themselves to electronic goods, television, jewellery and watches.

All the while, the beating continued. One of the gang, who was smoking, kept forcing Du Plessis to smoke his cigarette. “It was all a little game to him, he seemed to enjoy humiliating me. I will remember his face, his voice, forever. I’ll never forget him.”

After about 45 minutes of terror the gang decided to leave. Du Plessis managed to hobble to the panic button, which summoned a security company. Hearing the siren, Bronwyn and his parents ran to investigate and found Du Plessis bruised and bound.

The man who allegedly tormented him with a cigarette is the man who was arrested with his mother’s watch, as well as a watch given to Du Plessis by his father on his birthday.

Other members of the gang are believed to include a pair who were shot while robbing an estate in Ballito. Sabelo Cele was killed and his accomplice Fred Mkhwanazi was shot in the spine and paralysed last week as they tried to force their way into a home they planned to invade.

Cele’s funeral was held on Wednesday. Police and private investigators (PIs) kept watch at the funeral hoping to spot other housebreakers coming to pay their respects. The surveillance paid off, PIs from Enforce Investigations spotted a car belonging to a known suspected robber.

On closer inspection, PIs saw a stolen television in the car and made a citizens’ arrest of the occupants. The television had been stolen in an armed home invasion in Westville. Police are continuing their investigations. — OC.

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