Pretoria - What was meant to be an uplifting service by Reverend Nico Rautenbach turned into a life-threatening assault that landed the 81-year-old in ICU fighting for his life.
According to his wife Elsie, 80, who was visibly distraught when recounting the incident to the Pretoria News, Nico was fighting for his life and could possibly undergo a major operation to stop the bleeding on his brain.
Nico was badly assaulted during a house robbery in Garsfontein on Sunday morning while preparing for a service. The Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk reverend got up early on Sunday to prepare a sermon, as he normally does. From about 6am he prepared for the service in the study upstairs. While occupied, he heard strange noises in the house. The noises persisted, which prompted him to go downstairs to investigate.
He found nothing and thought he was mistaken because he is partially deaf. While downstairs he opened the window blinds and did some house chores. While taking out the dustbin he noticed that the small gate between the garden and backyard was open.
“That was when his suspicions grew. He knew he had locked it the previous night,” said Elsie. On his way to go and close the gate he noticed a broken lock on the ground. “It was then that he knew that something was terribly wrong.”
As he tried to close the gate, two men holding torches accosted him and told him not to run. He quickly tried to close the gate and run back to the house but it was too late. Nico was beaten to a pulp by the pair with an additional member also joining in the assault.
According to Elsie they hit him with the torches over his head, punched him to the ground and started kicking him. Nico, described as a gym fanatic and strong by Elsie, started fighting back. He managed to get in a few punches, which only angered the men, and in turn they ruthlessly continued to beat him.
“He was too strong for them so they took out a gun. He tackled the armed man and the gun fell to the ground and a shot went off,” she said.
When Elsie went downstairs to intervene, she was met with a gun pointed at her head. “My poor husband was screaming at the top of his voice. I told him to stop screaming because every time he screamed they bashed him,” she said.
They then assaulted Elsie and forced her wedding ring off her finger. “I pleaded with them that I will give them the ring and that they were hurting me,” she said, close to tears.
The men then ransacked the house and took the TV and a laptop. Nico was still being assaulted outside. Elsie said she then started praying. “It was in that very moment they fled the house.” Her husband was dazed. “His face was swollen and covered in blood. He kept on asking ‘What is going on?’.”
She dragged him into the house and called their daughter, who lives near them, and she called security and an ambulance. Elsie described the 10-minute scene as horrific, and the first in the secure complex since they’ve lived there for 11 years. Nico, who is in ICU at the Pretoria East Hospital, suffered concussion, bleeding on the brain, a broken nose and bruises all over his body.
“We have been married for 60 years, so I know how strong he is. I pray to God he pulls through,” Elsie said. Nico has been a reverend for 54 years. Two of his three children are also pastors.
It’s believed the men gained entry through the complex fence by cutting it. Garsfontein police spokesperson Captain Ilze Jones confirmed that a house robbery case was being investigated.