Brutal attack on artist couple

2019-09-23 16:27
Burgen and Chantelle Thorne with their dog, Jack. PHOTO: facebook

Burgen and Chantelle Thorne with their dog, Jack. PHOTO: facebook

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Two international children’s book illustrators were attacked on their smallholding in the Mooi River area at the weekend, leaving the man wounded and paralysed and his wife bruised.

Burgen Thorne (50) is recovering in hospital after being hit in the face with a rock and stabbed three times in the back on Saturday night.

His wife, Chantelle, who is also an illustrator, sustained several blows to the face and back by the intruders who threatened to kill her. Their German Shepherd dog, Jack, was hit with a dumbbell by the intruders during the incident at the farm where they have lived for the last 12 years.

The couple have major publishers as clients, including Oxford University Press, Macmillan, PanMacmillan and the Cambridge University Press, and illustrated the local children’s book Wanda, released this year.

A distraught Chantelle told The Witness on Sunday that Burgen had sustained damage to his spinal cord and is unable to feel his legs.

He will see a neurosurgeon and needs stitches to his eye. “My husband was in the kitchen preparing supper and I was in another room. I heard him screaming and I ran to the kitchen to see what was happening.”

Chantelle said three young men had smashed through the glass doors entering into the kitchen and attacked Burgen. “I ran and thought of locking myself in the bedroom, but then I thought they may hit him more. I grabbed a crowbar and tried to hit one guy but I missed.” She said one man then grabbed her and held a knife to her throat and asked, “do you want to die?”

She said she saw her husband lying in a pool of blood and screaming, “you’ve broken my back”.

The men then asked for their belongings and car keys. “I took one of the car keys and they grabbed me and took me outside. They were asking me to open the [main] gate but I told them the keys I had had no gate remote.”

She said the intruders got agitated and began hitting her on the head and back. “They wanted me to get in the car and start it, but I pleaded with them to start it themselves and leave.”

She said the car’s alarm went off and that may have spooked the men. She then managed to run off into the darkness. She said the men left through the forest without taking anything.

Chantelle then ran into the house and found Burgen trying to crawl to another room. She then called for help.

The couple illustrated local children's book, Wanda, released this year.

“I’ll never be the same,” a traumatised Chantelle said. “We’ve had some break-ins but nothing like this.

“It all happened so fast. They were very young guys and they were very violent, and these horrible people are free.

“I thought I was going to die.”

Tony Le Roux, the manager of the Mooi-Mpofana Agricultural Association, said this was the second farm attack in the area this year.

“We have security cells around the area, but we’re always concerned. Provincially and nationally things like this are happening more and more.”

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a case of robbery was under investigation.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime
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