Durban - A 45-year-old woman was suffocated to death during a violent home invasion in eManzimtoti on Wednesday after two knife-wielding robbers shoved a piece of cloth into her mouth and double-tied a cord around her neck “to make her stop screaming”.
Her husband had his hands and feet bound and could do nothing as he watched her life ebbing away.
Two hours later, a police dragnet consisting of a helicopter, dogs and unmarked ground crews closed in on the robbers, shooting one of them in the leg and another in the torso. The second man, despite his injury, managed to change his clothes and disappear into the warren of homes in the Ziko section of KwaMakhuta township.
The drama began soon after 11.30am when two men scaled a wall to a home in Ipahla Road and ambushed the couple as they sat in the lounge of the rented flatlet on the property, eManzimtoti police spokeswoman Captain Charlene van der Spuy said.
“They were caught by surprise. The husband was on his phone at the time.
“The robbers proceeded to tie them up, but the woman was screaming and struggling with them.”
Van der Spuy said the robbers told the couple they did not want to kill them; all they wanted were their cellphones, keys to the cars and a computer.
“They gagged her because she was screaming. They tied the cord around her neck twice. She suffered from asthma and could not breathe properly.”
The thieves ransacked the house before making off with a computer, a tablet, a cellphone and the couple’s Toyota Etios.
Van der Spuy said the husband eventually managed to free himself and ran to get help from the occupants of a flatlet above theirs.
“By the time he and the other tenant managed to get the cord from around her neck, the woman had died,” she said.
The husband was too distraught to speak to the Daily News on Wednesday.
The tenant who helped the husband did not want her name published, but said she was shaken by the incident. “He was banging on my door asking me to help untie her and that they were just robbed. I was too scared to go out because I was not sure if the men were still on the property so I rushed off to call the police and the security company.”
She said that a few minutes later, the husband came back and pleaded with her again.
“His hands were shaking, so he could not untie her. I then decided to go and help. Together we managed to untie the cord from her neck. But it was too late,” she said.
Police alerted to the robbery swung into action and deployed a helicopter to scour eManzimtoti and surrounding areas for the stolen vehicle.
They were assisted by private security companies.
Van der Spuy said officers saw the men in the stolen car on a dirt road off Moss Kolnik Drive in KwaMakhuta and gave chase.
“One of the suspects was shot in the leg and the other in the body. Police were able to apprehend the suspect shot in the leg. The other managed to get away,” she said.
Joseph, a resident of Ziko section who did not want his surname used, said he saw the police chase the two men and heard gunshots.
“I ran to the road and came up to the (Exel) petrol station to see what was going on. I saw one of the men run into one of the houses (across the road) with the dark clothing and when he came out he was wearing white. Whoever lives in that house knows that man,” he said.
Police were still searching for the second thief.