Durban - A Hillcrest woman is “heartbroken” after her partner was shot in the back and killed, moments after giving up his vehicle to hijackers in Pinetown.
Julie Graham, 48, had spent Sunday afternoon with Gideon van Zyl, 53, of Pinetown. They had just dropped off a one-year-old child they had been babysitting with its parents in Victory Road, Ashley, when they were held up by two hijackers while still parked in the driveway.
“They ripped my mom out of the car by her shirt and just threw her to the ground,” Julie’s 19-year-old son, Tyler Graham, told the Daily News on Monday.
“One of them told her to ‘shut the f*** up’, because she was screaming. She was so terrified.”
Van Zyl, he said, had calmly got out of his car, a black VW Golf FSI, and was walking away from it towards Julie when his mother heard the shot go off.
“He didn’t say anything. He didn’t do anything. He just got up and walked away. He was going to my mother. He was getting out of the way,” said Tyler. “Only a coward would shoot a man in the back.”
His mother was not injured but was left traumatised by the ordeal.
Julie, who answered the phone when the Daily News called her home on Monday, said she could not talk about the ordeal yet.
“I’m heartbroken,” she said, her voice heavy with emotion.
Tyler said his mother had often looked after the baby and the trip to the area had been nothing out of the ordinary.
“They took the child to a nature reserve to see the duikers,” he said.
Tyler said Van Zyl, a qualified electrician who worked in plastics injection moulding, would be missed.
“Gideon was a character, very cheeky in a good way. He had an easy laugh and always had a story to tell. It is a huge loss.”
He added: “The worst part is that they didn’t try to fight them. They were giving them the car.”
Tyler said police had not yet made contact with them regarding statements or any update in terms of the investigation.
“They are working with the tracking company to get the car back.”
Van Zyl’s ex-wife, Debbie van Zyl, 48, also of Pinetown, said they had remained friends after their divorce.
“We are quite devastated by the loss. He was a good, hardworking man who was a good provider and helped everyone. He was kindhearted.”
She added that his sons, Eugene, 27, and Shayne, 20, learnt that from him.
“Why would you shoot someone in the back? I wasn’t there, so I didn’t see what happened, but how can you do something like that?”
Brendon Bosch the Ashley home owner said he had just met Van Zyl that afternoon.
“They had taken my sister’s child out for the afternoon and when they dropped the baby off, they parked on the grass outside our house and came in.
“There were a few family members sitting on the porch facing the road when he (Gideon) and his girlfriend said goodbye and left,” Bosch said.
He said moments later he heard people shouting on the road and when he ran down to investigate, he saw a man pointing a gun at Van Zyl.
“When I came out the man with the gun pointed it at me. I ran back inside. A few seconds later we heard a bang go off, the car reverse and pull out. By this time Julie was screaming, ‘He’s been shot, he’s been shot’. When we got to him he was lying face on the ground and gurgling blood,” Bosch said.
He said it was a “balls up” when he called the police.
“The lady officer was more concerned about the car that was hijacked than the man who had been shot. She kept asking me for details of the car and I kept trying to tell her to first get hold of an ambulance. Eventually after insisting she said she was sending an ambulance,” he said.
Bosch said an ambulance arrived 20 minutes later and the first police vehicle after 30 minutes.
“The first guys at the scene were the Ashley neighbourhood watch who were here a minute after we called,” he said.
Pinetown police are investigating a case of murder and hijacking.
“No arrest has been made at this stage,” police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said on Monday.
Meanwhile, friends and family took to social networks to share their condolences.
Anita Nel Williams wrote on Facebook: “Senseless tragic death of a friend. Brutal (hijacking)! When will this end? RIP Gids. My heart goes out to Shayne, Eugene, Debbie, Julie and the rest of the family!”
On the Waterfall Crime Watch page on Facebook, others also posted comments.
Karla Rix said: “A young man, shot in the back as he was walking away – Cry the beloved country… The worst thing is that he was walking away when they shot him…”
May Schorn said: “We need visible policing in the streets. Less money spent on our leaders’ homes and new wives and more invested in crime control. God be with the families and friends of the unfortunate victim of this crime. Heartbreaking.”
Julie Sykes Vorster said: “So sad. Even when you turn away, they still want to kill. RIP. My thoughts (are with) his family.”