A PORT Elizabeth mother was brutally gang-raped in a horror attack yesterday while her terrified family – including young children – were held hostage, with police allegedly failing to respond to emergency calls for more than half an hour.
The hostage drama unfolded at about 3am in Bethelsdorp when seven gun- and knife-wielding men broke into the Thina Street, KwaNoxolo, home and held three adults and five children hostage at gunpoint, raping the young woman and robbing the others. The traumatised family are also outraged by what they claim was a lack of assistance by police personnel.
They say that despite numerous calls to the police emergency control room, officers only arrived about 45 minutes after the attack took place and the first call to police was made. Police said an internal investigation had been launched into allegations of negligence by the control room operators.
While the family were being held at gunpoint, helpless to do anything, a 24-year-old mother was repeatedly raped by the attackers in a nearby room. None of the family members involved can be named to protect her identify.
Detectives are baffled as to why the attackers were so determined to break into this specific home, which is surrounded by a number of other homes and situated less than a metre behind the main house, which is currently under construction. The robbers demanded valuables and cellphones, making the incident appear to be a robbery. However, police have not ruled out the possibility of another motive for the attack as it appeared the home was specifically targeted.
None of the robbers – believed to be teenagers or in their early 20s – attempted to disguise themselves. According to relatives of the victims, they did not know them.
Yesterday, the visibly shocked rape victim described the attack as life-altering but said that she was glad to have survived. "I am just glad that no one got killed.”
A cousin described the incident as "shocking”.
"We were sleeping when all of a sudden someone was banging on the front door. While they were trying to break the door down I called 10111 and the woman who answered said she was going to put me through to the police station but then dropped the call.
"I then sent a message to my friend asking him to call the police because there were robbers trying to get into my house.”
Moments after the message was sent, one of the robbers climbed through the kitchen window and unlocked the front door from the inside. "They came into the bedroom where we were all hiding. They demanded my cellphone, money and jewellery. I gave them everything I had and begged them not to hurt anyone.”
The young woman was then dragged to the adjoining lounge where the men took turns raping her. "They threatened to kill everyone if anyone struggled. The children were screaming and crying while the men ransacked the house.”
After the rape, the men fled but returned minutes later and raped the young woman again.
"They were gone. The next thing they ran back inside, hit me over the head and raped her again,” she said. "I spoke to my neighbours after the whole incident and they said that they heard the screaming and also alerted the police. About 30 minutes after the men had run away the police finally arrived.
"It is pathetic – if they had just came when we called them the first time this could have been stopped.”
Police spokesman Captain Stanley Jarvis said that an internal investigation had been launched into allegations of negligence by the control room operators.
"We are going to retrieve all the telephonic voice recordings to establish if there is any truth in these claims,” he said. "If we do find irregularities, the necessary steps will be taken against those involved.”
Jarvis highlighted that any service delivery complaint received top priority within the police.
Detectives from the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit are investigating seven counts of rape and armed robbery.