Family ravaged by crime
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They look out at us, smiling, as they pose for this happy family picture published in The Star almost exactly five years ago.
Yet every member of this family has been traumatised by crime.
And, until today, not one of the family’s attackers has been caught.
Debbi Talmage is in despair. She contacted The Star in 2007, and we ran the family portrait along with details of the trauma each member had experienced as a result of crime.
That was five years ago. Since then, the picture has darkened considerably, with the family having suffered even more attacks.
And the latest happened yesterday when her father Dennis was attacked by three robbers posing as policemen coming to investigate a previous robbery.
The Talmage family – Debbi, husband Kim and daughters Tayla, 14, Jodi, 12, and Demi, 10 – live in a secure estate in Kyalami. Debbi’s parents, Dennis and Sally Polack, live nearby in Glen Austin.
Today Debbi is disheartened and wants to warn others that even the police should be viewed with suspicion.
This is after her father was attacked in his home yesterday by three men in police uniform who gained entry to his house under the pretence that they were doing a follow-up on another crime he had fallen prey to earlier this month.
Debbi wants to know whether her family’s ordeal is normal, and if other Joburg families experience similar violations.
In January 2007 Debbi was attacked in her car just 60m from the complex where they lived. Her daughter Demi, then five, and a neighbour’s son witnessed two gunmen rob her of her jewellery.
This came after other members of her family had already survived half a dozen criminal attacks.
In 1994 her father, Dennis, was hijacked. In 1999, her sister-in-law Tracey Talmage and her two children were abducted by armed hijackers and had a lucky escape after their attackers crashed the car with them inside. In 2000 her mother, Sally, was mugged and her bag taken.
Then, in September 2005, her brother Ricci Polack was held up and robbed. His wife’s car has been stolen twice and his house has been burgled 10 times.
Debbi’s sister Mandi Naude narrowly escaped being hijacked in 2005.
The next serious incident happened on Boxing Day in 2007 when Debbi’s father took his dogs walking on a neighbouring farm and was shot three times. He was in intensive care at Sunninghill Hospital after getting more than 100 stitches across his abdomen and in both legs. The perpetrators were never caught.
In 2010 daughter Jodi was threatened by gunmen outside a restaurant where her family had gone for a meal. She is a Gauteng athlete and managed to sprint away from them. A year later she was with her friend at a fast food outlet, waiting for the friend’s brother who had gone to buy food.
He had taken an unusually long time, so the mother went to see what was causing the delay and had a gun held to her head for walking in on an armed robbery in progress.
“Jodi wasn’t hurt, but she was badly traumatised by the whole ordeal,” Debbi said.
Then, on January 13, her parents were held up in their home by eight armed men.
“My mother, who is 68, fended them off while screaming to the others – my father, a friend, and a visitor who was putting her three-month-old baby to sleep – to get into their cellar, which is riot-proof. She then managed to press a panic button and they fled.”
Her father fell in the chaos, hurt his back and cut his face badly, requiring 22 stitches.
Dennis was attacked in his home again yesterday. He had opened the door for three men who claimed to be policemen coming to investigate the previous attack. Once in the house, the men held him at gunpoint and went to the cellar, from where they took cash, some watches and Dennis’s pistol.
When he told them he had no more money, they pistol-whipped him and drove away in a grey Polo.
“My question is, how did they know about the incident? And how did they know about the cellar? Were they cops gone bad?” Debbi asked today.
Her children are back in counselling, traumatised by the latest events. So are her parents.
“We are one of the lucky families that live in a secure estate and yet our kids still live in fear and are nervous in their own home.
MY STORY: Debbi Talmage’s letter to The Star u Page 3