Durban - A Gauteng woman, on holiday with her family at a resort near Margate, on the south coast, shot dead a robber on Wednesday morning after he attempted to stab her with a kitchen knife and rob her son of his cellphone.
She then chased his fleeing accomplice all the way to the town’s main street.
Mary Bester, 39, of Germiston, arrived in KwaZulu-Natal with her husband, André, an electrician, and their sons, Jeandré, 14, and Morné, 12, on Monday, for the start of the week-long school holidays.
Bester had been an employee of the SA National Defence Force for 18 years before she resigned in December last year to become a full-time mom.
The family had booked into a holiday home, at Orange Rock, near St Michaels-on-Sea, on the KZN South Coast. It was an annual pilgrimage they made to enjoy the surf and sun, Bester said on Wednesday night.
She said her husband and son, Jeandre, had left for the beach at about 5.30am.
“Morné was still asleep and I was going to meet them once he woke up. When the two of them left, I closed the front door gate and latched it. I then went to lie down next to Morné. I was scrolling through my cellphone when I looked up and saw a man walking towards the bathroom. He said hello and I greeted him back,” Bester said.
“That very second, I knew something was wrong and he was not supposed to be in the house. After I greeted him, he ran back into the kitchen. I went after him. I then saw him coming back with two kitchen knives. He screamed at me to go back into the bedroom. I then realised he had an accomplice.”
Bester said the suspects demanded cellphones and money.
“I told them I did not have anything. They were very aggressive and began ransacking the room. They even went through my jacket pockets where they found my wallet,” she said.
“During the entire ordeal, my son was awake. But, he never made a sound. I feared for his life and knew I had to protect him. They then demanded his cellphone.”
Bester said she told them he did not have his phone on him and that it was in the other room.
“Both left to search the other room and left us alone. During this time, I ran to the cupboards and removed my husband’s gun from the drawer. I had never handled a gun before and was terrified. But, I had to defend us. I feared they would either harm my son or kill us if they did not find any valuables.”
Bester said she struggled to remove the revolver from its holster.
“While I tried to get the gun, the suspects returned to the room. They were even more furious and ordered me to give them the gun. I refused.
“Miraculously I managed to get it out in time. One of the suspects lunged towards me with the knife,” she said. “He was almost on top of me when I pulled the trigger.”
She said a single shot hit him at close range in his chest.
“Both of them started running. I gave chase. I fired about six more shots. About 100m from the entrance of the holiday home one of the suspects collapsed and died.
“His friend shouted at me, ‘you killed him, you killed him’. He had a can of coke in his hand which he had taken from the fridge. He still held it in his hand as he ran off.”
Bester said she chased him right into the town’s main street. “Two men in a bakkie stopped to help. They phoned the police and took me back to the house. Another person had gone to the beach and alerted my husband to the commotion.”
KZN police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane, said swift response by the Gamalakhe and Margate police led to the arrest of the suspect in Uvongo. A 27-year-old man was expected to appear in the Ramsgate Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, on charges of robbery. An inquest docket has also been opened.
A police source said the suspect was nabbed after he called his dead friend’s sister from Bester’s cellphone to inform her about what had happened. “The woman then went to a nearby police station to make enquiries about her brother’s death. She then gave police the details of the second suspect and his address,” he said.
“They swooped immediately and the suspect was arrested at his home.”
Zwane said several items stolen during the robbery, had been recovered and returned to Bester.
Bester said while they were shaken by the ordeal, they were determined to enjoy the rest of their holiday.
“The boys are doing fine. We came here to enjoy a holiday until Sunday and that is exactly what we are going to do,” she said.
On using a firearm for the first time, she said “through conversations with my husband, I knew that I just had to pull the trigger. Fortunately it worked. Now, André is determined I take shooting lessons.”
She said in Germiston, her husband chaired their local community police forum and she was the secretary. “We are aware of crime. But never expected to become victims,” she said. “In fact, I don’t blame so many people for fleeing the country for safer destinations.
“But, I am proudly South African. I will stay here and fight back. I will do whatever it takes to defend my family. This incident made me realise I am stronger than I think.”