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Boy, 3, sees mother murdered

Published May 6, 2013


Johannesburg - A three-year-old child has been left traumatised after witnessing assailants attack his mother and kill her.

He then saw his frail great-grandmother viciously assaulted in her bedroom.

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On Sunday, the bruises on the 74-year-old’s face bore testimony to the brutality of the attack by a youth who, she says, grew up in front of her.

 A heartbroken Eldorado Park family, battling to make sense of the attacks on their loved ones, have been left to pick up the pieces.

Just more than a week ago, on Freedom Day, Rookeya van der Westhuizen’s great-grandson Tristan barged into her room, screaming: “Ouma! Come see, they are killing my mother. They cut her neck and broke her bones.”

In the house, darkened by a power outage, the old woman – who has difficulty walking – took a few steps and held on to a wall for support. She called out to Tristan’s mother, Tracy-Lee Martins, 28. There was no response.

Before she could leave her room, there was someone else there.

“He grabbed me by my neck and punched me twice on my face. He then pinned me down by putting his knee on my chest and choked me,” Van der Westhuizen said.

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“I then saw him take a pillow and realised he was going to smother me. I prayed silently, realising he was going to kill me.

“I felt a force take hold of my hand, I then hit him with an elbow on his face. He had put pantyhose on his face, and as we wrestled, it came off. He then got out of the bedroom,” the bruised woman recalled.

While Martins and Van der Westhuizen were being attacked, Tristan was going in and out of the bedrooms, witnessing the brutality.

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The family are puzzled why the men left him unhurt.

At some point, Van der Westhuizen heard the men leave the house. She went into Martins’s bedroom and saw her lying down.

Using her walker, she struggled to the back door, intending to go outside to call for help – but fell.

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Unbeknown to her, some of the men were still in the house.

“One of them jumped over me, while another came to me with a big knife.

“He told me to go to my room, but I heard Tracy in a soft voice say ‘My mother can’t walk’.

“The man with the knife grabbed me by my pyjamas and dragged me to my bedroom. I thought he was going to stab me with that knife.”

Van der Westhuizen doesn’t remember much of what happened afterwards as she was dizzy. But she recalls one of the last men to leave the house mopping the floor in her bedroom.

The old woman called for help later, and Martins was found dead in her bed. The killers had tucked her back under the covers after killing her.

In the meantime, Tristan could not stop talking about what he had seen. “I told you they were killing my mother, Ouma,” he kept saying.

Tristan’s grandfather, Andre Balutto, has been taking the little boy for therapy.

The 49-year-old man lost his wife Belinda – Martins’s mother – when she was hit by a car when the girl was 17 months old.

Both mother and daughter died on holidays, Belinda on December 16 and Martins on April 27.

Balutto said rumour was that the men who attacked his family wanted money for drugs.

Cheryl Martins, Martins’s aunt and Van der Westhuizen’s daughter, said that what hurt them most was that her mother was attacked so brutally by people who live in her area.

One of the men arrested lives in a house behind hers.

Five people were arrested later that Saturday, but four were released due to lack of evidence – something that has angered the family.

“Our hearts are broken because we lost a loved one, but they are broken more when we see the attackers roaming the streets.

“The parents of the boy who lives next to our house and was released keep pointing at our house and passing remarks.

“It hurts,” she said.

The man who was arrested was to appear in court on Monday.

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