Durban - A Durban family left South Africa six years ago because they were tired of crime.
But they returned to follow their passion and work with HIV and Aids orphans and because they felt they could help tackle crime.
On Friday, their lives were shattered when they were brutally attacked at their home in Eston.
Brendan Stapleton, 45, the chief executive of Lily of the Valley, a children’s village which houses children infected and affected by Aids, his wife, Suzy, 42, and their three sons survived the attack.
Stapleton’s hands and feet were tied up with fence wire and he was kicked.
The men tried to drill through the back of his neck with an electric drill, but failed. His eldest son, Joshua, 14, was punched and his attackers tried to drill through his right arm.
Luke, 11, had a gun pointed at his head and was bashed about, as was his mother. Eight year-old Jesse had a knife held to his neck and a gun to his head.
Speaking to The Mercury on Monday from a friend’s home where they were trying to take stock of events, the family described their survival as by the “grace of God”.
Suzy said she was home-schooling her boys when Luke saw the men.
They barged into the house demanding guns and that was when their hour-long nightmare started.
“They did not want us to look up and, if you did, they would hit you. They poured apple juice over my head, I think to try to scare me into thinking it was petrol, but I tasted it,” she said.
Suzy said that although she was scared, she remained calm.
I believe that God kept us calm to protect us because even the children remained calm throughout. They wanted guns and I think they were misinformed because we don’t have any.”
She said the men eventually tied up her and her sons and left them in the bathroom. She believes that if they had not been disturbed by a worker (who came to the house at that point), they would have harmed or killed her husband.
However, Stapleton said what happened to them was part of the reason they had returned to South Africa. They wanted to be part of a solution to crime. He admitted they had left for Australia because they had been tired of crime.
“We were there for three years, away from crime, disease and poverty. We were happy there, but then realised that people who commit crime were also victims of abuse, poverty and abandonment to a great extent,” he said.
Stapleton said the attack had made him even more determined to help people. Out of the 120 children they were looking after, 72 percent were living with HIV.
“Some have been terribly abused and in order to prevent them from becoming future criminals, we have to be there for them by giving them the basics like education and a warm bed to sleep in, but most importantly give them love,” he said.
Stapleton said the property was huge and they did not have the money to put up a fence.
“I also can never justify using money donated to help these children for a fence or alarm system and I won’t do it. We believe that no amount of fencing or alarm system can protect us more than God can.”
Joshua said when he was threatened with the drill, he remained still and watched when the man tried to drill through his arm.
“He only tore my T-shirt and bruised me, but I was not scared because I knew he had nothing to gain from killing me,” he said.
The Stapletons said they forgave the men the moment they ran out of the house.
“I know that if we looked at their history we would find that they have been abused in one way or the other,” Brendan said.
He said cellphones and computers were stolen.