An 80-year-old Mpumalanga woman had a stroke while spending a harrowing three nights locked in the boot of her car in below-zero temperatures.
Brenda Carter, who distributes irises country-wide from her farm in Wakkerstroom, had been watching Wimbledon with friends on Friday afternoon.
On her return home that evening at about 6pm one of her farm workers accosted her just as she climbed out of her car outside her house next to the Wakkerstroom police station.
Weather reports from the area indicate that the temperatures dropped below 0ºC.
According to Mpumalanga police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Leonard Hlathi, the man had taken little more than Carter’s handbag before he bundled her into the boot of her car.
Police believe this was part of an intent to murder Carter as the man knew she lived alone.
A suspect in the case was arrested n Tuesday. He was nabbed after allegedly being filmed on CCTV using Carter’s card, which had been in her handbag, at a nearby ATM.
The 25-year-old suspect was set to appear at the Wakkerstroom Periodical Court on Wednesday morning to be charged with theft and attempted murder.
Hlathi said friends who had tried to visit her on Saturday, but were unable to find her, alerted her son, David Carter.
David, an artist based in Joburg, tried to get in contact with his mother, but could not get hold of her.
He then phoned one of his mother’s employees and asked him to check.
The employee arrived at the house on Monday morning, and noticed a piece of scarf protruding from the boot of Carter’s Mercedes.
The man quickly informed officers at the neighbouring police station, and the boot was opened using the car key left on the car’s front door.
Inside, they discovered the unconscious woman, unable to move and barely breathing after three days in a confined and freezing space.
It is unknown at what point Carter had the stroke during her confinement, but she is still in a serious state at Volksrust Amajuba Hospital.
David said that the suspect in the case had worked with his mother for some time, and that he was responsible for earthworm propagation on her farm.
He told The Star on Wednesday morning that despite the arrest of the man allegedly responsible for attacking his mother, it was little comfort.
If his mother had just been able to take her blood pressure medication, the stroke that has debilitated her would probably not have happened.
While her right side is unlikely to fully recover, doctors did say that with therapy, her speech should improve shortly.
But David believes his mother’s active lifestyle and a massive support base in the small town would help improve her condition, and that the “whole village” would help out.
Carter appeared to be gaining strength this morning.
Officers and family who visited her on Wednesday said while she was unable to speak because of the stroke, she was still able to recognise people she knew – and she was still smiling.
Carter’s right side appears to have been paralysed from the stroke induced by the traumatic events of the weekend, but her son says she is definitely on the mend.
Carter has lived in Wakkerstroom since her husband died more than a decade ago, and was recently the subject of an online magazine feature series focusing on the success of her business and Wakkerstroom in general.
Hlathi said while a motive for the attack had not been established, the fact that the suspect was an employee meant that he knew the frail 80-year-old would perish if left in her car.