Robbers attack churchgoers

2009-08-18 00:00

A WOMAN has described the terror she felt after she and her family were held up at the Crossroads Church in Cato Ridge on Friday evening, when the congregation was robbed by a gang of armed men who took advantage of the soft target the church provided them.

The woman and her husband, who asked The Witness not to name them for fear of reprisals by the robbers, said they were severely traumatised by the incident.

The woman said they arrived at the church to drop their teenage children and their friend off for youth group. They had just climbed out of the car in the church yard, when they were confronted by a gun-wielding man running towards them.

“At first we thought it was a joke. My husband asked my son if he knew him, because he seemed so young. We really thought it was kids messing around.”

She said when the man cocked the pistol and pointed the gun at her husband’s head, they realised he was deadly serious.

He yelled at them to give him their car keys. “I became a bit hysterical, but my husband was very calm, and he reassured me, telling me ‘Calm down. Stop it; it’s fine’. My son was begging the man, saying, ‘Please don’t shoot us’.

“My husband gave him the car keys and he threw them to an accomplice who had appeared. They also took my jewellery, our watches, my husband’s wallet and my daughter’s phone. We made sure we didn’t look at them.”

The woman said the man even grabbed at her daughter’s rubber bangles. “But I hid my phone. We needed coms with the outside.”

She said the men then forced them into the church, where two other armed men were busy robbing the congregation.

“People were crouching down. I was telling the kids not to look at the robbers.” The woman estimated there were five men in the gang.

“The next thing, four shots rang out. My husband screamed ‘let’s go, let’s go’ and we ran. We found a room at the top of the church where lots of other people were already hiding. There was no key so they jammed the handle so no one could get in.”

In the safety of their hiding spot, the woman was able to summon help with the cellphone she had managed to hide from the robbers.

She said they later learned that the shots had been directed at the church minister, who surprised the robbers. Miraculously he was unharmed, she said. “They also held a gun to the head of a little boy who was hiding in the kitchen.”

The woman said they are battling to come to terms with their ordeal.

“We are alive by the grace of God. They took our car, and our belongings, but none of us was taken with them or beaten, and my kids are alive …”

She said the family returned to their church on Sunday, but found it difficult to be back at the scene.

“I’m not coping. We are organising trauma counselling,” she said.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed the incident and the hijack of the white Golf, and said investigations are continuing.

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