Cape Town. 120813. Debbie Adlington speaks 10years after her ordeal where her husband attacked her with an axe. Reporter Zara Nicholson. Picture Courtney Africa

Cape Town - More than 10 years after surviving an attack in which her three children were murdered at the hands of her husband, Debbie Adlington still cannot forgive the man she describes as “the best husband and father you could ask for”.

Ten years ago in January - only five days after her eldest son’s birthday - Adlington’s estate agent husband, Tony, axed their three children, Kevin, 12, Katelyn, 10 and Craig, 9 to death.

In his study he doused them with petrol and set the house alight before shooting himself.

In the bedroom, his wife lay fighting for her life. He bludgeoned her with the axe, splitting her skull. But despite spending three weeks in a coma after the ordeal, Debbie Adlington survived.

Five day’s earlier, it was Kevin’s birthday and everything was “normal”.

The family had celebrated his birthday at Spur.

It’s a day she remembers with ease but the memories get harder with every passing birthday that her children no longer have to celebrate.

In two weeks Katelyn would have celebrated her 21st birthday while her sons would have been 23 and 20 this year.

Adlington says she still becomes very emotional when their birthdays draw near.

“In the days leading up to their birthdays, I get agitated and people at work understand. Generally I manage to get through it okay.”

She works as a receptionist at Pick n Pay head office and still lives in her Kirstenhof home to which she moved after recovering from the attack with her parents in Durban.

In 2005, she had in-vitro fertilisation and had her now six-year-old daughter, Kylie-Ann.

She beams when she speaks about Kylie-Ann: “She is a very bright little girl. She is going to Grade 1 next year and in her recent report, she got top marks for all her maths and shapes. She seems to be taking after my late daughter. She was very bright.”

Adlington said it helped a lot having Kylie, but made sure she knew about her siblings.

“Their pictures are in our house and she takes the pictures out of the cabinet and looks at them. She also tells her school friends about her siblings.”


At the time of the horrific ordeal, Adlington said she would never marry again because it would be too hard to trust again but she also asserted that she was never afraid of her husband.

“I even get a bit annoyed when I read some old articles which says that he hit me.”

Adlington has always said that she does not know what made her husband crack.

“I reckon he was psychotic. He fought in the Rhodesian war. The psychiatrists were all trying to figure out what made him do it. But some of my colleagues tell me that many guys who were in the army never recover from it. I never had any reason to feel like I was in danger with him and I was never scared.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better husband and father to our children.

“Some of my friends still can’t believe he did it. The kids were mad about him.”

Adlington said she felt anger towards Tony because of what he had done to their children and she had often questioned what she could have done to prevent him from killing her children.

“But my psychologist said no matter what I did, he planned to do this and would have done it regardless,” she said. Although she has since accepted it, she says: “I will never forgive him for what he did to the children. I can’t. I forgave him for what he did to me because I survived.”

Adlington said she was keen to start doing motivational speaking again. “Just to help people realise that when anything tragic happens, there is way out of it,” she said. - Cape Times


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