Durban - A Gauteng grandmother, Punitha “Priscilla” Pillay, 64, spent her days serving her temple, her community and her family. But her life was cut short after she and her husband, Selvin, 68, of Bedford Gardens, east of Johannesburg, were hijacked by bogus “blue light” cops.
The couple were returning home from a family prayer in Meyerton last Tuesday when they saw a vehicle with flashing blue lights. When they stopped along the R59 freeway, four men got out of the vehicle and pointed guns at them.
The couple were taken in their white Toyota Hilux double cab and a short while later, left on the R55.
Overcome with shock, Punitha collapsed.
Her husband rushed to a nearby house for assistance but by the time he returned she had died.
According to the family she had suffered a heart attack.
Later that day, the couple’s vehicle was found by police along the R550, in the Zonkizizwe area.
Pillay’s nephew, Dushan Pillay, said: “She was the light and life of our family. There was never a dull moment with my aunt around. She was a wonderful woman, who dedicated her time to doing Seva (charity work).
“She was also very involved with her temple, the Heidelberg Vinayager Temple, where she served as the chairperson. She would always be one of the first people to render assistance and organise events, especially for auspicious days.”
Pillay said the couple ran a business, M&N Fittings, which supplied furniture fittings and hardware, to furniture manufacturers and the DIY industry.
“They started the business 28years ago and built their brand. They worked hard to achieve success and always gave back to the community.
“My aunt and uncle shared a unique bond, and were inseparable. They went to work together, shared an office and did everything together.
“Our heart aches, not only for our loss but for my uncle, who endured so much trauma and then had to lose his life partner. He is distraught and struggling to cope. Right now, we want the perpetrators to be brought to book. We want justice for my aunt.”
Pillay’s son-in-law Nesan Pentia said the couple were married for over 40 years.
Punitha was born in Heidelberg, while Selvin grew up in Lenasia. They had two children - a daughter and son - who died a few years ago.
They also have two grandchildren, aged 22 and 16.
“There are not enough words to described her character. She was the light of every function. She lived for family and always wanted everyone to be together. While she loved her grandchildren, she also loved her nephews and nieces, and their children, just as much. It was always family over everything. My father-in-law has taken her death hard. We have family that are around, at all times, supporting him. But she was his partner.”
Pentia said the couple loved to travel and went on several business trips to China. In December last year, they had holidayed in America with family.
“It was an amazing trip, with about 17 family members. We went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The trip was just one of many special memories that we will have of her.”
Pentia called for criminals to be given harsher sentences.
“The law is too lenient people get arrested for serious crimes and are released on bail. Yes, my mother-in-law died of a natural cause, but this would never have happened if she did not endure such trauma.
“They pulled over thinking it was the police. They were being law-abiding citizens. Instead she tragically lost her life.”
Sundra Ramsammy, treasurer at the temple, said Pillay was the chairperson of the temple for the past 17years.
“She was involved in the temple and did everything she could for it, despite running a business in Johannesburg. She would dedicate time between all that she had going in life, for the temple and community.
“She also used to dig deep in her pockets for all the big prayers that the temple had and would get priests from the area to assist with big prayers. It was her personality that drew people to her,” he said.
Gauteng SAPS spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said cases of hijacking, robbery and an inquest were being investigated.
Pillay’s funeral was held at the Siva Gnana Saby Sivan Koil Temple in Lenasia.