Businessman shot dead

Time of article published Aug 5, 2008

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By Barry Bateman

Three gunshots at point-blank range on Friday brought Jose Couto's attempt to fend off armed attackers in his home to a sudden end.

Just before midnight on the fateful day, two suspects threw the 67-year-old Doornpoort businessperson to the ground and murdered him before heading to the main bedroom to deal with his panic-stricken wife Stella, 59.

Stella had been leaning against the bedroom door as one of the attackers fired three bullets though it, narrowly missing her head.

"They kicked the door and then everything went quiet, so I relaxed. Then they barged against the door and knocked me to the ground. I thought they were going to rape me," she said.

Police recovered nine bullet casings in the home.

Stella suspects a painter hired to help her husband give their home in Gambry Street a new lick of paint was involved.

"The painter started some time ago and finished the job on Thursday," she said.

"He was a loving husband, we were always together and he loved his grandchildren."

Staring at his picture, she broke down.

"He was so special this man. His beautiful smile; he was a beautiful person.

"Before we met I was a widow and I said I was never going to marry again. But the first time I saw him 11 years ago we just looked at each other and it happened.

"We were so happy together; he always cared for me and was home on time. It was a relationship that every home dreams of," she said.

Couto's son Jose said he received a call from an uncle just after midnight telling him that his father had been murdered.

Jose said his father and stepmother retired to bed at about 11:30pm.

"My father was under a lot of stress because of work so he talked in his sleep.

"Mom woke up to him saying 'no, my love,' thinking it was a dream. He had left the room to tackle two men carrying a TV in the lounge," he said.

In the confusion Stella jammed the door close, thinking Couto was in the same room. It was then that the suspect fired shots through the door, killing Couto.

"We found him lying by the front door.

"There are three bullet holes in the tiles so the bullets went straight through him. They went back to the room and hit Stella in the face with a gun.

They took jewellery, a laptop and cellphones."

Jose said the suspects gained entry through the kitchen window which was left open because the house had been painted. The suspects cut through burglar bars.

Stella said she pushed the security panic button, but there was no response from Computer Alarms.

"After the men had left I ran into the street and screamed for help.

"Neighbourhood watch people arrived, then the police and an hour later Computer Alarms arrived.

"The police have been good, but I am disgusted at Computer Alarms. I pushed the panic button and the siren was going," she said.

Computer Alarms manager Connie Strauss said there could be a problem with the alarm system's programming.

"We received an undefined signal, not an alarm or a panic signal."

She said the signal was recorded at their control room, but at the time it was sent it did not trigger an alert.

"We encourage clients to check their alarm systems at least once a week," she said.

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