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Durban - The Malawian accused of shooting and killing a Durban couple at Tweevley Guest Farm near Harrismith early on Sunday told his wife he was going to “check on the goats” when he left his room in the middle of the night.
In a matter of minutes, Brian Pope, 61, and his wife, Tillie, 47, lay dead after being shot in their bed. Their son Warren was stabbed in the neck with a garden fork, and his wife, Marlene, was hit in the head and her arm was broken. Their two children, aged one and four, who had witnessed the attacks, were not harmed.
Police arrested the 32-year-old man about 12 hours later.
He has been charged with murder and attempted murder and is expected to appear in the Harrismith Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
The family were spending their Easter weekend at the farm and had gone to bed before the frenzied attack took place.
Free State police spokesman Sergeant Mmako Mophiring said the murders had shocked everyone, including the suspect’s wife.
“When we were talking to her, at the place of safety where she and her child have been taken, she was crying and in a state of shock.”
According to the woman, her husband had suddenly got up in the middle of the night, something that was out of the ordinary.
“She said that he told her that he was going to check on the goats outside; that they were apparently crying,” said Mophiring.
When she realised that her husband was not coming back, she immediately tried to phone him, only to find that he had switched off his phone.
Mophiring said the woman was so distraught that she was even blaming herself for what happened, and wished that she had followed him outside in the hope that she could have done something to prevent the murders.
“It is a very sad case because she also does not understand why this happened,” he added.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, the owner of the farm, Hannes Hattingh, said they were also still in a state of shock and did not know what really happened.
“I just really don’t know what to say. It is shocking,” he said.
The Popes’ bodies will be taken to Bloemfontein on Wednesday for post-mortems.
Pope’s son-in-law, Ryno du Preez, said they had gone to the hospital on Tuesday to see Warren and Marlene, who were making progress.
“Warren is still in ICU, but doing better than he was. Marlene is already up and about. There is no fracture to her skull and no permanent damage to her head, but she does have a broken arm. At this stage we do not know when they are going to be discharged,” he said.
Du Preez said the children had been given counselling as they had been traumatised. He said they had gone back to Joburg with their aunt.
“We are still trying to sort things out for the funeral, but we still don’t have a date as we are waiting for their eldest son to arrive from China. We want to honour all of their wishes,” he said.