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Horror attack at Harrismith guest house

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Brian and Tillie Pope were murdered by the caretaker of a Free State guest farm early on Sunday.

Durban - He was the one who welcomed visitors to the guest house and made sure they had a comfortable and pleasant stay.

But the same man who had earlier shown the Pope family – who had arrived for the Easter weekend from Joburg and Durban – to their rooms turned on them in a frenzied killing spree, emptying a gun magazine into Brian, 61, and Tillie, 47, as they lay sleeping in the Free State guest house.

Not content with killing the couple, he went in search of more prey in the next-door room, where Brian’s son Warren, his daughter-in-law Marlene, both in their thirties, and their two young children, aged 1 and 4, were sleeping.

By this time, he had only one bullet left, which he used to shoot Marlene, hitting her in the arm.

However, the fact that he had no more bullets did not deter him.

He picked up a table and chair and various other objects, attempting to beat Warren to death.

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The Tweevley Guest Farm near Harrismith where the murders were committed.

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Warren put up a good fight, which ended outside the room.

The crazed killer did not stop. He picked up a garden pitch fork and stabbed Warren with it, piercing his neck. He collapsed and the killer left him for dead.

But the man wasn’t finished.

He returned to the room, where he beat up Marlene with a pole, and forced her and her two children into the family car.

He drove a few kilometres down the farm road to his lodgings to fetch his own wife and baby. What happened there, no one knows, but Marlene, sensing an opportunity to escape, managed to jump into the driver’s seat and, despite her shattered arm, drove away.

Police, who had been alerted by someone who heard the gunshots, arrived at the scene in minutes and met her in the driveway of the farm.

Tillie’s brother, Ockert Britz, described it as a “completely senseless and brutal murder with the sole intention to kill six innocent people”.

Britz, who believed the man must have been on drugs of some kind, said: “The owner told us that this man was highly thought of. He had been working at the guest house for four years, and the guests all praised him. The owner told us he was very confused and would never have expected this of him.”

Warren was critically injured, but spoke to police officers investigating the matter.

“He is steadily regaining consciousness and is assisting police,” Britz said.

Marlene was in hospital with a fractured skull and a splintered arm. The children were not harmed.

Britz praised the police and the way they handled the incident.

“I am highly impressed at how professional they are and at the quick arrest,” he said.

Sergeant Mmako Mophiring, spokesman for the Free State police, said the man escaped into the bushes after the attack.

“We put the area under observation and waited for him. He stayed in hiding for about 12 hours, but then, when he thought the police were gone, and came back to the guest lodge, probably to finish the job, we were there waiting for him, like a lion waits for its prey, and immediately arrested him.”

Mophiring said it was believed the gun used in the attack belonged to the guest house’s owner, but police were investigating this.

The Malawian was the guest house’s caretaker.

Mophiring said the motive for the attack was unknown.

“We can’t say it was a robbery because nothing was taken. We don’t know what led to the attack.”

The Mercury was unable to contact the owners of the guest farm, Hannes and Rozelle Hattingh.

Britz said Brian Pope had been a regional sales manager at Komatsu, a company that manufactured and sold construction and mining equipment, utilities, forest machines, and industrial machinery, in Pinetown. He had worked there for more than 30 years. Tillie was a housewife.

Brian had other children and Tillie had a daughter.

Britz said his sister had been through hard times and it meant a lot to her when she recovered from breast cancer last year.

“I know Brian had about three years before he retired and my sister was looking forward to their enjoying those retirement years together.

“They were God-fearing, honest people who were down to earthand did not deserve to die in this way,” he said.

anna.cox@inl.co.za

The Mercury


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