AN elderly Jansenville farmer was viciously stabbed to death and his wife beaten unconscious by a gang of robbers on their farm, Armadale, 17km from the town.
Owen Charles, 70, died at the scene. His wife, Janet, who turns 70 on Thursday, was admitted to St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
The attack came just a day after the couple, career stock farmers who have lived in Jansenville for more than 50 years, had enjoyed time with their children who had decided to celebrate their mother’s upcoming birthday with her at the weekend.
Details surrounding the attack are sketchy but it is thought to have happened shortly after 7pm on Sunday.
Traumatised family members camped outside the house yesterday morning while police forensic experts and detectives were busy inside.
Neighbour Leonard Wright, 55, was first on the scene after receiving a phone call from the Charles’s son, Warren, 36, who lives on a farm about 20km away.
Fighting back the tears, Warren said: "We got a call from my mother at about 10.30pm saying that they had been attacked and needed help.
"We called Leonard immediately who rushed over to the house and found my mom sitting on a chair in the lounge with my dad’s body lying on the floor.
"When I arrived a short while later, it was chaos and my mother was very traumatised. She could not really talk at the time because she was in shock.”
He said the attack had happened shortly after his parents had arrived home from an afternoon drive.
"I was at the house in the afternoon and left at about 4.45pm. My parents then went on a drive to check the water levels.
"They returned home and my mother was in the kitchen cooking – the door was unlocked at the time – when five men entered the house and confronted her.
"My father must have heard the commotion and intervened.
"There was definitely some sort of scuffle which ended in him being stabbed several times,” he said.
"It appears the men then ransacked the house before finding the walk-in safe.
"They stole the firearms – at least five hunting rifles. We are not sure what other firearms were stolen.”
Janet was stabbed and beaten unconscious.
"They seem to have stolen jewellery, money and the firearms before taking my father’s Isuzu Frontier out of the garage and riding off,” Warren said.
The Charles’s daughter, Jackie Gant, who had just been to see her mother in hospital yesterday, said: "I think this is such a senseless murder.
"I don’t think he [Owen] had any enemies.”
Gant said her parents had been married for 48 years and her father would help anyone, "from the most humble to the wealthiest”.
The last person to speak to Owen was a friend at about 7.15pm. Several attempts to contact him after 8pm failed.
"It’s my mother’s 70th birthday on Thursday so the entire family was here on Saturday,” Warren said.
Leonard said when he arrived at the Charles’s house, the front door was standing open.
He said when he got the call from Warren he initially thought it was nothing too serious, but he realised when he got there how bad it was.
"I don’t know what was going through my head – I just wanted to get inside and make sure they were all right,” he said.
"We made sugar water for her [Janet] and tried to talk to her, but she was in shock and couldn’t really say anything.”
Police were on the scene within minutes of being alerted.
"They immediately started combing the surrounding area and searching the bushes,” Leonard said.
Gardmed sent a medic from Port Elizabeth to bring Janet to St George’s Hospital in the city.
Jansenville area police spokesman Warrant Officer Rino Kilian said detectives and the provincial forensic unit had been sent to the scene and a helicopter and dog unit was dispatched to try to locate the vehicle.
Additional reporting by Angela Gillham