Pietermaritzburg – Police took less than 12 hours to track down and arrest suspects who had allegedly assaulted an elderly Nottingham Road couple on Tuesday night.

Just after 20:00, three men gained entry onto Drayton Farm, attacking the elderly owners of the cattle ranch before escaping with cash and appliances. Thomas Hartley, 71, and his wife Cynthia, 67, were sitting in their lounge drinking coffee when the men entered their home.

Thomas was assaulted repeatedly before the couple were bound in their lounge while the men ransacked the home. Hartley said on Wednesday he was grateful for the assistance of the police, local security and the community.

Describing the attack, he said he heard a popping sound and saw a man in a green shirt running towards him with a knife. Hartley said he put up a fight but was overpowered by two other men. This is when he fell onto a glass table.

“When I continued to fight one of them tried to throttle me and I have nasty bruises on my neck. ”They managed to overpower him and bound and gagged him. They then sat his wife down and took all her jewellery.

“They took my wife to the bedroom and I thought they were going to rape her. Thank goodness they didn’t. ”Hartley said all his wife’s clothing was stolen. “Every time I close my eyes I see the man in the green shirt running towards me.

“When the robbers left, they thanked my wife for being so co-operative and said they would not target us again. ”Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Gay Ebrahim said about R15 000 cash was stolen from the safe as well as a television set, radio, sewing machine, laptop, cellphones and clothing.

“The complainants were injured ­during the attack and received medical ­attention. They were cared for and spent the night with their neighbours,” Ebrahim said.

The police worked tirelessly throughout the night into Wednesday morning to trace the ­suspects. There was a breakthrough in the case at about 06:00, just over nine hours after the incident occurred, when police finally arrested the men.

Ebrahim said the men were caught during a stop-and-search operation to tackle the scourge of crime in the uMgungundlovu North police cluster ahead of the holiday season. All three suspects were arrested and the stolen property was recovered. “Some of the cash is still outstanding,” Ebrahim said.

A neighbouring farmer to the Hartleys, Bryce Jooste, said he rushed over to the couple’s home after the incident occurred. He said the pair had been quite shaken up, but had thankfully not been seriously injured during the robbery.

“They had been thrown around, but their injuries were luckily not too bad,” said Jooste. “Thomas had to have 12 stitches because one of the men threw him across the room and he landed on and broke a glass table and cut his leg.

”He said Cynthia had been attacked on a farm in Underberg a few years ago and this was the second farm attack she had experienced. “We are a small community and have formed a security group for these incidents, so another farmer and I were first on scene.

“The Nottingham Police and Nsele Security were amazing in how they handled the robbery. All the necessary services were out on the farm within two hours and were lifting finger prints while the Pietermaritzburg K9 Unit were out looking for the men.

”Jooste said there had been an attack at another farm near his three months earlier. KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union security desk head Koos Marais said it was with great sadness and regret that he received news of another farm attack on an older couple.

“We call farmers to be on high alert, especially at this time of the year,” he said. “We ask that farmers take all the necessary precautions to prevent intruders from entering their properties.

We also want to express our appreciation to the police on the speedy arrest and a job well done and hope the suspects will be brought to justice,” said Marais.

Police cluster commander Brigadier Francis Bantham commended the officers for their “outstanding work and for working through the night”.“My members have done a sterling piece of work and it is appreciated by all concerned,” Bantham said.

She advised the community to take extra precaution during the festive period, warning that criminals are now “desperate”

Source: Elderly couple attacked | News24