Pretoria - An axe-wielding gang are on the rampage in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, spreading fear as they attack the old and frail.

The gang have been blamed for killing Lazlow Bercsnyi and injuring his wife Carol after they were attacked with an axe and a spade at their plot on Saturday afternoon.

Community members in the Sinoville neighbourhood where the elderly couple lived said on Monday that the gang operated in groups of three to five men, and had already hacked several other residents with their axes before killing the 87-year-old Bercsnyi.

Johan Lucas, of the Hammanskraal Community Policing Forum, said the gang had emerged about a month ago in the wake of the arrest of a gun-toting group who had terrorised residents for months.

He said: “That group had been well organised; they had transport and guns and struck only at certain times of the night.”

Lucas said the forum, which he chairs, responded to every incident reported, but their resources were so stretched that they could only do so much.

Police were unable to fulfil policing obligations because their numbers and vehicles were too few, and criminals could get away almost all the time, Lucas said.

The Bercsnyis were attacked on their property just before 7pm on Saturday. The five armed men attacked the 68-year-old Carol as she fed horses at the back of the house, and then hacked her husband in the kitchen.

A neighbour rushed the couple to hospital. Lazlow died from his injuries on Sunday morning, while Carol remained in a critical but stable condition in a hospital’s intensive care unit yesterday.

“The attackers are still at large,” police spokesman Captain Johannes Maheso said, adding that residents should come forward with any information they had on the attacks.

The Bercsnyis were not the gang’s first victims, said Lucas.

He said gangs operating in the area had a particular recognisable “footprint”, but the time of Saturday’s attack had been out of character: “It was much earlier than normal, because they come at night when they know people are sleeping and would be slow to respond.”

They could have been watching the couple and knew their vulnerability, or they could have been known to them, he added.

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