Cape Town -
Gwendolene Gilbert, 88, died at the weekend in the room in which all her eight children were born – the victim of a stray bullet that pierced her window, passed clean through her head and lodged in her bedroom wall.
Her husband of 68 years, Cedric Gilbert, was on the couch in the lounge next door when his daughter Marilyn cried out: “Daddy, come look.”
Gilbert got to the room to see his wife slumped in Marilyn’s arms, blood all over her head.
Marilyn had been helping her mother get ready for bed at about 8.15 on Friday night, and was just pulling on her nightie when her mother collapsed. They did not hear the bullet that left a small round hole as it passed through the window.
Cedric Gilbert next remembers the police arriving and checking his wife’s pulse, and the hopeless feeling as they confirmed that she was dead.
Mrs Gilbert, as she was fondly known by neighbours, was a grandmother of 27 and the latest victim to be caught in the crossfire in a shooting incident outside her home in Circuit Street in Bokmakierie.
A man is helping police with their inquiries.
The shooting of his wife came as a shock to Cedric Gilbert, who said that for the 63 years they had lived in the area, the violence and shootings had never directly affected them.
“It never worried us until now.
“I’m not angry. It was an accident that happened and I don’t want to point a finger – whoever did it will be stopped sometime in the long run.”
Police officers from the Athlone station arrived to offer their condolences and to talk about the last time they had seen Mrs Gilbert. One officer described her death as “senseless”.
They spoke of how popular she was among the neighbours – how, before she became elderly and frail, she was actively involved in community projects. They spoke of arrangements for a memorial service and reassured the family that they were following up all leads.
Daughter Levona Gilbert told the police: “I hope the death of my mother will be an eye-opener for the youngsters.”
She pointed to where the bullet had penetrated the bedroom.
“She died in the room where all of us were born,” she said.
Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said that two people had been arrested and questioned in connection with the incident.
“One suspect has been released while the other one is still being detained,” Traut said.