WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE
Pieter van der Westhuizen, older brother of late Bok rugby captain Joost van der Westhuizen, got caught up in an armed robbery during a church service on Sunday at Querentia Bediening church in Wierdepark, Centurion. He returned fire, fatally hitting two of the attackers, while a third fled.
The day before Pieter and his fiancée, Antoinette Watson (30), were still flashing happy smiles at the camera at their official engagement photoshoot at Harties Horse Trail Safaris near Hartbeespoort Dam.
Antoinette and Pieter (51) attended Querentia’s morning service, led by Antoinette’s stepdad, Pastor Kobus Erasmus, on her 30th birthday. They were due to celebrate her birthday over lunch afterwards with Kobus and Antoinette’s mom, Michelle.
Kobus said the theme of his sermon on Sunday was David enquiring from God why he saw fit to still be guarding over him.
“But today God has protected us through Pieter,” Kobus said. “Although the robbers fired several shots in the church, no one got hurt. Only a teenager sustained a superficial wound. Those shots really should have hit somebody, but didn’t.”
There were about 30 people in the church at the time.
The incident happened around 11.30. The congregation were singing their final hymn when the robbers stormed in and forced people to the ground. One of the attackers held a firearm to the pastor’s head while another removed people’s purses, jewellery and cellphones.
“Suddenly they just started shooting wildly and then Pieter confronted them,” Kobus said. “They fired at Pieter too but missed.”
He added that “it was not a matter of a cowboy wanting to be a hero”.
“Pieter acted to protect me and the rest of the congregation. That’s all.
“Afterwards there was no big-headedness from him.”
Pieter isn’t allowed to comment as the police is currently investigating the incident.
Provincial Saps spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters says a firearm, suspected to have been used by one of the robbers, was found on the scene. The weapon will go for ballistics testing to confirm whether it’s been used in any crimes.