It had become almost a ritual. On Thursday and Saturday mornings the four friends played golf at the South Downs Country Club in Mayfield Park, Johannesburg.But the ritual came an abrupt halt, violently and fatally, on Thursday morning, 23 January when Jan van Aswegen (64) was mauled and killed by four pitbulls.“We all know each other - we’re like family at South Downs Country Club,” says Hans Oelefse, Jan’s cousin and best friend.“There’s a big void now. Because we’re so close here, you can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it, trying to process it, because it happened in such a horrific way,” he explains.Being manager of the club, Hans didn’t play golf with the four men that Saturday. He learnt about the tragic incident when one of the men rushed into his office hysterically with the news. “At that point I wasn’t anxious yet, because his words to me were: ‘Jan’s in bad shape, but he’ll survive’,” Hans recalls. Jan and the other men had heard a woman scream as they arrived at the fourth hole. When they investigated they saw four pitbulls attacking a 74-year-old woman at her home, which borders on the golf course.“We suspect someone wanting to deliver a parcel had upset the dogs, which caused them to attack their owner,” Hans says. Jan leapt over the fence bravely to go to the woman’s aid. The dogs immediately turned away from their owner and attacked Jan. When Hans arrived at the hospital he received the tragic news that his friend had succumbed to his injuries. The dogs’ owner remains in a critical condition at Netcare Garden City Hospital.Jan’s funeral service was held at the Seester Hervormde Church in Brackenhurst on 31 January. “I’m supporting the family in whatever way I can. Jan and I weren’t just cousins, we were bosom pals,” Hans says. “I’m a bit disappointed still and I do have many questions,” he admits. His grief is raw; his closest friend having been taken away from him forever in a matter of minutes weighs heavily on his mind. “It’s difficult. I’m angry with him because he jumped over the fence, but on the other hand I’m also incredibly proud of what he did,” Hans says. “He didn’t realise the danger like the others, and that gives me some peace of mind,” he says.