Probe into plight of ‘captive’ pensioner

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frail hostage flat CAPE ARGUS Police visit the home of Maureen Johnson in Parkwood. Neighbours claim Johnson was being held against her will by a couple milking her pension. Photo: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Social workers have visited the 80-year-old Parkwood woman neighbours claim is being kept in her council flat against her will.

Melany Kuhn, spokeswoman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said a team of social workers visited the flat on Tuesday to assess the situation and that a report would be presented to the department soon.

“I can confirm that social workers visited the granny and we are awaiting the report,” Kuhn said.

On Monday, residents of Gerda Court in Parkwood told the Cape Argus that Maureen Johnson, whose mental state is said to be confused, was allegedly being kept locked up by a couple.

The couple were also alleged to be fraudulently collecting Johnson’s monthly pension.

Colin Arendse, a community activist, said Johnson was confined to a single room and being “kept under lock and key”.

frail hostage Maureen Johnson, 80. Photo: Supplied SUPPLIED

Parkwood ward councillor Melanie Arendse said the matter was “stuck at the Grassy Park police station”.

“I’ve been struggling to get the police to get (Johnson’s) pension card and ID for the past three months,” she said. “The couple refused to (hand it over) and the police just don’t do anything about it.”

Arendse said residents had told her and community leaders that Johnson had been “locked up” and was “sleeping in her own faeces”.

Pat Lindgren, director of Action on Elder Abuse, said that if the police were not responding effectively to a complaint, anyone who knew that someone was being abused – be it physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or financially – should report this to the Department of Social Development.

“If the police are not doing anything about it, go to social development,” Lindgren said after being told about Johnson’s plight.

“It’s normal that she would tell the police that everything is fine in front of her alleged abuser.

“This seems like a very extreme case, but the woman should be taken out of that situation and taken for an assessment at a hospital.

“If she’s being locked up, she may be underfed or dehydrated.”

Lindgren said that the other people living in the council flat should be evicted.

“Many victims of abuse fear that if they admit to the police they are being abused, the abuser may ‘punish’ them for speaking out.”

Two years ago, the Cape Argus reported about a similar case, in which a social worker found a desperately thin elderly woman imprisoned in a windowless room in Brooklyn. The 80-year-old woman was allegedly locked by her son into a room with no running water and no electricity.

According to the social worker’s report, the woman weighed only 38kg when she was found. She was later transferred to a frail care centre.

Elderly people were vulnerable to abuse, and were easily manipulated as they were dependent on relatives to care for them, Lindgren said.

* The Halt Elder Abuse Line is 0800 00 3081.

Cape Argus

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