'They killed my brother - and hunted me down'

By Time of article published Oct 28, 2003

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A young Free State farmer told a Bloemfontein judge on Tuesday how attackers tried to hunt him down shortly after killing his elder brother.

Piet Sehloho, 30, his brother, Isaac, 28, and Fumanekile Mpinga, 29, have pleaded not guilty on charges, including murder and attempted murder, related to the attack.

Helgardt Smith, 25, from Bultfontein, told Judge Arrie Hattingh how he narrowly escaped death when an attacker's revolver failed to fire.

"He pushed the firearm almost in my eye, turned his face away and pulled the trigger, but the round refused. I heard the striker hit the shell," Helgardt testified.

In his subsequent struggle with the attacker, Helgardt's thumb was shot off and he was hit in the throat, chest and neck. When he tried to flee in his bakkie the same attacker waited for him, again aiming at him through the windscreen.

The young farmer, bleeding and flustered, struggled to deactivate the vehicle's immobiliser, realising only after a while that he was trying to push the device button with his missing thumb.

While charging his original attacker with the vehicle, another, an unseen assailant shot him in the arm, Smith testified.

The shot came through the closed passenger window.

When he eventually managed to drive off, he did not know whether his brother, sister-in-law and two cousins, who he left behind in his parents' farmhouse, were still alive.

Smith's brother, Rinus, 27, was killed in the attack on December 1, 2002 at their parents' home on the farm Aangekocht outside Bultfontein.

The brothers, Helgardt's wife Tania, and their cousins, Ilse and Leona Strydom from Bloemfontein, met on the farm that Sunday to braai and watch cricket.

Rinus and the three women were in the kitchen, preparing food and drinks, when an attacker suddenly charged in from inside the house, the court heard on Tuesday.

The man shot Rinus in the head from a distance of around 60cm, wounding him fatally, before fleeing through the house's back door, Ilse testified.

Outside, he encountered Helgardt.

The surviving brother told the court that he had had a premonition that morning. "When I got out of bed, I knew all was not well. I was uncomfortable."

Because of this, he took his 9mm pistol with to Aangekocht, but unloaded it and placed it on the fridge after everything at the house initially appeared in order.

Helgardt said his total medical costs, following much surgery, were now running into the order of R300 000. He had lost all use of his left hand and could not pick things up with the other hand because of the severed thumb.

He was still using pain and sleeping pills, as well as anti-depressants, he testified.

The trial continues on Wednesday. - Sapa

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