Durban - When Adrian Pilling got a call saying “the car’s been hijacked and your mom is in the car”, he thought his disabled mother, Sheila, was going to be killed.
Instead, through the kindness of strangers, she was found and cared for after being dumped on the side of the road.
Now the Pilling family want to track down and thank the women who rescued her.
Sheila Pilling, 87, and her husband John, 88, had been at the driveway of their friend’s home in Sanders Road, New Germany, on Thursday afternoon, when five men confronted the couple.
John was at the back of the VW Tiguan taking out the wheelchair for his wife, who is partially paralysed and was seated in the front passenger seat, when the hijackers pounced.
Adrian Pilling got the distressing message in Johannesburg and raced to the airport. By the time he landed in Durban his mother had been rescued, thanks to a massive manhunt.
“My dad tried to fight them off and was pistol-whipped and hit on the chest, but he wanted to get back in the car to drive away because my mom was still in there.
“One of the men shot at him, and I think if he didn’t turn his head the bullet would have killed him. Instead, it hit his jaw and exited on the other side.
“The men pushed him out and drove off with my mom. Dad ran down the road screaming after them and screaming for help, and at that point he said he didn’t even know he had been shot and was dripping with blood. His only concern was mom.”
Paramedics and security officers were called in and a call to search for Sheila went viral.
“I was told that the number of people who got messages to search for my mum was over 7 000 and this was across all communities. As I headed for the plane the worst thoughts were going through my mind,” he said, adding that the time between receiving the call from his father and getting to the airport was a blur as he tried to get information about the car registration to hand over to police as a helicopter was about to join the search.
Police, security companies, local community police forums and community groups joined the search.
“We were told that a tracewas found on the vehicle, and the car was picked up doing about 180km/h going through a nearby township.
“I was told even officers at a funeral service were texting directions and keeping people informed while they were at the service. It’s unbelievable to hear how people went the extra mile to help find my mom,” he said.
The as-yet unsung heroine and Good Samaritan in the traumatic incident, was a woman, or a group of women, who rescued Sheila when she was thrown out of the vehicle near Clermont.
“My mom can’t clearly remember because she is still traumatised. But there was at least one woman who saw her and immediately took her in and called the police. This was a complete stranger and she helped my mom,” said Adrian.
Today, the Pilling family want to find the woman who helped their mother, to thank her.
“There cannot be enough thank yous for what the lady did, and for what the community of Durban did in trying to find my mom and help my dad. By the time I stepped off the 45-minute flight into Durban, I got the call that my mom had been found and was taken to the same hospital as my dad.
“In fact, a picture taken of the two of them holding hands went viral as well, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Adrian, adding he hoped to thank every person that helped.
“We had people who we did not know come to the hospital all through the day to see that my parents were okay and that they had been part of the search. It has been incredibly overwhelming,” he said.
John Pilling is scheduled for surgery on his injured jaw.
Deputy city mayor Fawzia Peer also visited the family on Friday and said: “It’s totally inhumane for criminals to take on easy targets like these defenceless old people.”