Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Husband recounts wife's last moments

August 03 2010 at 06:50AM Get IOL on your
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By Karen Breytenbach Justice Writer

Sitting at his dying wife's bedside after she had been shot in the head in her driveway, Bergvliet resident Smiley van Zyl had to do the hardest thing he had ever done: he had to hold the cellphone to her ear so that their son in America could say goodbye before life support was switched off.

Van Zyl gave emotional testimony in the Western Cape High Court on Monday as he recounted the horror of losing Jane, his beloved wife of 32 years. They have two sons, aged 29 and 27, and were business partners in a skincare company.

His younger son in Nebraska wanted to be with the family to say goodbye a day after the shooting, but it would have taken him three days to get to Cape Town.

On the evening of April 13, 2008, Jane took Smiley to Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic for abdominal pain treatment and said she was nervous to drive home alone late at night.

"I remember I jokingly replied, don't be a girl, keep the windows closed and use the remote control to open the gate. We had a Rottweiler, Caesar, a 70kg animal, and if you opened the gate he would come out and meet the car. I thought there wasn't much that could go wrong.

"She said goodbye, and turned back and said goodbye a second time. It was unusual for her to do this. Little did I know it was the last time I'd see her alive," Van Zyl said, before breaking down.

Between 10.30 and 11pm, she was shot in her driveway. Only her handbag was stolen.

Gershwin Hartzenberg, 27, of Parkwood, pleaded not guilty on Monday to Van Zyl's murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and the robbery with aggravating circumstances of Newlands resident Linda Heeger.

Hartzenberg had been released on R400 bail two weeks before Jane van Zyl's death, while facing more than 150 charges.

Van Zyl has vowed to take on the State for allowing the release of an apparently dangerous criminal.

Van Zyl's nightmare began to unfold while he lay in hospital, when a neighbour called to ask what the noise was outside his house.

He became frantic when his wife did not answer the phone.

Calling their security company, he was told not to worry, the lady at his address had been shot, but everything was under control.

"My world came to a standstill. I pulled the drip out of my arm. You could say it was perfect timing, because just then my neighbour and the squad car arrived at the hospital."

Smiley van Zyl said he had to endure a barrage of questions from the police on the way home.

At his home, the street had been cordoned off and there was a hive of activity. Desperate to get to his wife, he ducked under the police tape and ran
to her car.

What he saw was a shattered window and blood, but no Jane. He was told his wife had been taken to hospital, but everyone remained
frustratingly vague about her condition.

At the Groote Schuur Hospital trauma unit, he saw his wife again, bandages around her head. She needed a CAT scan. He got hold of the medical
file and saw surgery was "not required" and if her condition did not improve drastically in 12 hours life support could be turned off.

"That was the first time it dawned on me that the woman I kissed goodbye less than an hour earlier, I?d lost forever."

Heeger testified about the robbery in front of her house in Swansea Road, Newlands, between 10.30 and 11pm on March 13, 2008. She could
describe the event, but could not identify her attacker.

Heeger said the man and an accomplice blocked her off by parking diagonally in front of her car. He got out, pushed a gun against her window and demanded her handbag. No valuables, including her wedding ring, were recovered.

The case continues on Tuesday.


This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Times on August 03, 2010

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Comments by Sonny

Is this the price of our new democracy, Mr Zuma?

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