Saturday, September 19, 2009

Check first, be safe later

THE full horror of what can go wrong when people spend fortunes on personal security — and then employ strangers off the street to work in their homes, was brought home this week when the gardener of up-market Sandown Retirement Village in Pinetown appeared in court charged with the murder of 87-year-old Sheila­ Hesk in August.

Hesk, a wheelchair-bound widow was bound hand and foot, beaten and tortured to death — allegedly by Sphamandla Cele and his friend Ayanda­ Mthembu.

Cele was employed by the management of Hesk’s retirement village even though he had an extensive criminal record, including convictions for burglary and assault. Arrested last week while on the run in KwaDabheka west of Durban, Cele is said to have admitted to murdering Hesk — but showed no remorse at all. Cele and Mthembu appeared in court earlier this week and were remanded into police custody until September 22.

The murder of Hesk, inside a secure retirement home, shocked Durban. Sandown’s own website boasts: “The level of security at Sandown Village should give you added comfort too. The entire property is walled and there are security officers on patrol at night, which means [that] you can feel totally confident of your home’s security when you go on holiday.”

Since Hesk was found near naked, bruised and bloodied, speculation has been rife as to the identity of her attackers. However, the SAPS have been hunting for Cele since minutes after being called to the scene of Hesk’s murder.

On August 26, Hesk’s body was found by the Sandown estate manager Mike Roberts. Neighbours of the wheelchair-bound woman had heard noises from her flat during the night but they had not been alarmed. However, when her door remained closed the following morning they alerted Roberts.

Hesk’s flat had been ransacked. However, a small safe remained unopened and had clearly resisted attempts to force it off the wall. It is suspected that Hesk could not remember how to open the safe and so, convinced that she was holding out on them, her attackers tortured her to death by repeatedly stabbing and punching and kicking her.

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