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Family to leave SA after attack

South Africa

By Graeme Hosken and Barry Bateman

Two elderly Italian women have been injured after a gang of robbers armed with shifting spanners and guns attacked them in their South African family's Brooklyn home.

The attack on the two, who have been on holiday here since the birth of their grand-daughter in December, is the latest in a spate of violent house robberies which have occurred in Pretoria since January 1.

Three people, including a doctor, have been murdered in the series of attacks in and around the capital.

A visibly shaken Joachim Huyssen said his mother-in-law and her mother were attacked moments after he and his wife, along with their seven-week-old daughter, left their Mackenzie Street house to drop off two friends.

Translating for his mother-in-law, Rita Barbieri, Huyssen said the two were in the kitchen when they spotted a man standing at the window.

Screaming for help, the two were overpowered when three men charged into the house, hitting Huyssen's wife's grandmother, Antonia Cuscito, repeatedly over the head with a shifting spanner.

Forcing the two to the floor, two of the attackers stood guard over them while the third ransacked the house, filling bags with a laptop computer, digital cameras, jewellery, money and shoes.

Huyssen said as they drove into their driveway, his wife spotted a man running through the garden and leaping over a wall. "She began screaming and I immediately leapt out of the car and ran after him," he said.

Unable to spot the attacker, Huyssen ran back into his house where his wife had raised the alarm.

Huyssen said the family was severely traumatised.

"We are ready to pack up our bags and leave. We have had enough of the burglaries, armed robberies and car thefts. Crime in South Africa has changed our future forever.

"We have been contributing to this country through taxes and by bringing in experienced specialists in various engineering fields to help build this beautiful place into a prosperous and viable country.

"For us this is the end. It is no place to raise a family," he said.

Brooklyn Community Policing Forum chairperson Jo-Anne Byng said the provincial police were taking the matter seriously.

"I have held a meeting with provincial Commissioner Perumal Naidoo who said he is concerned about the number of attacks in the area. He has said that he is doing everything to sort out the problems including addressing the manpower problems at Brooklyn police station," she said.

Upon hearing news of the attack, Byng sent out an urgent email to members of the CPF warning of the danger in the area.

The warning email read: "Please be careful, even when you are sitting inside the house and please lock the outside doors.

"We are informed that there are three men committing house robberies in the Brooklyn, Lynnwood and Menlo Park areas. There is one tall man who is armed and two shorter stockier younger men, possibly Zimbabweans, and one who carries a shifting spanner.

"If a suspicious group is seen please call the police. Do not approach them, they are not afraid to attack."

Ward councillor Doulien van der Merwe said a big problem in the area was the police's lack of response.

She said there had been numerous complaints about the lack of manpower and resources, adding that the Brooklyn precinct covered too large an area.

Police spokesperson Inspector Anton Breedt said no arrests had been made and appealed to people who had information on the attackers' whereabouts or identity to contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

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