Girl, 13, whacks robber with walking stick
Durban - A brave 13-year-old girl repeatedly kicked and hit a robber on his head with a walking stick to stop him from throttling her granny.
Jemma de Gaspary said on Thursday she had not hesitated to fight off the robber because it was a matter of life and death for her 75-year-old gran, Elizabeth Shepherd.
Since the robbery on Wednesday afternoon, the Grade 8 pupil at St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, Kloof, has been sleeping with her baseball bat next to her.
Shepherd, who sustained bruises to her neck, said the robber had gained entry into her well-secured Gillitts complex through the front door.
She said she had gone to the doctor and then fetched Jemma from her home, a few streets away, to visit her for the afternoon.
Her 81-year-old husband, Roy, a financial consultant, was at work.
Shepherd said: “It was about 4pm when we returned home. The front door was unlocked. But I did not think anything because the maid was still there.”
As she entered the house, Shepherd said she saw someone move very quickly into her bedroom.
“I thought it was the maid. I walked in her direction to go to speak to her. As I entered my bedroom I saw a young man crouching at the side of the bed,” she said, adding the domestic worker had been in the toilet when the robber gained entry into the complex.
The entire room had been ransacked and the couple’s belongings were strewn on the floor and bed. Shepherd said the robber must have been in the house for at least 15 minutes. She screamed when she saw him and tried to run.
“He came after me. He grabbed me from behind and began throttling me. I tried to fight him off but he just tightened his grip around my neck.”
Jemma, alerted by her grandmother’s screams, ran to help.
“He was throttling my gran and I could see that she was battling to breathe. I charged right at him. I kicked him and screamed at him to let my gran go. I told him that he was hurting her.”
She said that when the robber failed to release her granny, she ran down the passage and fetched one of her grandfather’s walking sticks.
“I whacked him repeatedly on the head with the stick and kicked him on the hip. He did not know what was happening. I doubt he expected to get a hiding.”
Jemma said the robber ripped her grandmother’s gold and pearl necklace from her neck.
“I ran outside with the stick and waited for him. When he came out of the house I started hitting him again. He tried to grab me but I just hit back even harder. He eventually gave up and ran off.”
She said she chased after him, but he disappeared down the street. Shepherd said her granddaughter was a “brave young girl”.
“She was relentless. She hammered him with the walking stick. Her grandfather collects walking sticks. She chose the biggest and fattest one to launch her attack. I am really proud of her and grateful that no harm came to her.”
Shepherd said Jemma had called the police, but they only pitched at 7pm - three hours later.
“Thankfully our neighbours and community came to our assistance. They were fantastic.”
This is the second time Shepherd has been attacked. In April she was fetching her mail from her box at the Gillitts post office when she was choked by a thief.
“He just came up from behind me. He said, ‘sorry to interrupt you’, and seconds later he was choking me.” Shepherd said her screams foiled his attempt to steal her jewellery.
“This is all too much for me. I am not safe in or outside my house. I stay indoors with everything locked and bolted; I cannot live like this. At our age it is also an impossible task to move. We are like sitting ducks.”
Jemma described crime as “bad” in KwaZulu-Natal and said her worst fear was that criminals were getting “smarter and smarter”, finding new ways to commit crime.
“That is terrifying because we do not know when they are going to strike, and how.”
Police confirmed the incident.
Nikki Moolman, of the Ward 10 (Kloof) safety and security committee, said they were concerned about the high crime rate.
Moolman said they had written to Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu to redeploy the police Tactical Response Team (TRT) to the area.