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Pretoria - Severely beaten with a hand drill, strangled, locked in a room, and left for dead, a well known and loved Pretoria priest is recovering in an ICU ward in hospital.
Father Craigh Laubscher, 45, of the St John Fisher Catholic Church in Lynnwood was attacked on Sunday evening by a man he had helped just a week ago.
Pretoria archbishop William Slattery spoke to Pretoria News on Monday outside the Jacaranda Hospital where clergymen and parishioners flocked in their numbers to see the priest. “I cannot believe that someone could do something so cruel to a priest. It is just so shocking,” Slattery said.
According to the archbishop, Laubscher was attacked at 9.15pm as he left the church and was walking towards the front door of his house.
The church, house and a nursery school are on the same grounds. The back door of the church is about 50m from the front door of the parish house.
“He finished off at the church and as he got to the start of the stairway to his house, the man attacked him. There was a long struggle between the two as Father Craigh tried to keep him from entering the house.”
According to Slattery, the attacker was known to Laubscher.
“He had approached Father Craigh last week. He asked for some help and father gave him some food.”
Slattery said that attack became intense after the intruder used a hand drill and severely assaulted the priest all over his head and body.
“He continuously bashed him with the drill. When he had overcome Father Craigh, he managed to get the key to get inside the house. He also strangled him. Father Craigh told me that he definitely wanted to kill him because he knew the exact pressure points as he was strangling him. He said that he thought his life was over and he was going to die.
“The intruder locked Father Craigh in the office. He stole the donations and also broke into the car, but we are not sure what he stole,” Slattery said.
On Monday, Pretoria News visited the church and learnt that the attacker also broke into the room of the gardener and made off with his television and DVD player.
Slattery said: “
His face is completely bruised. His entire body is very bruised and he says he is in a lot of pain. I don’t have a full doctor’s report yet to know of all his extensive injuries.”
Wendy Oosthuis, caretaker at the St John Fisher nursery school, said on Monday they too were still shocked by the incident.
“Who would do something like this to a priest, and especially Father Craigh. He is such a good man. One cannot explain how amazing he is. Why did he not just take what he wanted and leave? Why did he have to attack him like this? That’s an act of savagery. It is so difficult to think this happened to a priest,” Oosthuis said.
She added that the children at the daycare centre were very fond of Laubscher.
“He would always wave to them when he came in. They love singing for him and he would praise them and they get so excited. He was just an absolute pleasure.”
According to Oosthuis, the children made a get-well card for Laubscher which was dropped off at the hospital on Monday.
“Each child drew a little picture on the card with a nice message. I’m sure he is going to love it. We are so glad he is recovering, and can’t wait to have him back. We are keeping him in our prayers.”
Father Chris Townsend, parish priest at Christ The King Parish Catholic Church in Queenswood, which Laubscher previously oversaw, said the attack on the clergyman was barbaric.
“We are very concerned by this. As a priest you cannot turn away a person in need and this leaves us very vulnerable to predators like these. We have to do what we can to help others, no matter what. It’s a very difficult situation. We are praying for him to recover and our prayers will continue after that for clergymen around the world who face difficult situations,” Townsend said.
Crystal Roberts, a parishioner who visited the church on Monday afternoon to see Laubscher, held her hand over her mouth in disbelief as she heard the news.
“You must be joking. That cannot be true. Who would do that – are they crazy? Why would you hurt such a kind kind man? I hope they find the person who did this and he rots on jail,” she said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Colette Weilbach said they were aware of the incident and were investigating.
Laubscher said he was not yet fit to speak about his ordeal.
Meanwhile, messages of support have been streaming in for the parish priest on social media. A short message was posted on the Christ the King Parish Facebook page asking for parishioners to pray for Laubscher.