Friday, March 25, 2011

Tourist murder rocks Wild Coast

Tourist murder rocks Wild Coast
2011-03-24 11:36

Gerald and Ingrith Roberts. (The Witness)

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Bongani Hans and Vera Schoeman, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - The Hawks are investigating the murder of a KwaZulu-Natal man who was gunned down while he and his wife were holidaying in Port St Johns on Tuesday afternoon.

It is believed that Gerald Roberts, 60, who works for the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department, was shot and killed while driving along Ferry Point Road near Ageterus Beach at about 17:00.

His 61-year-old wife, Ingrith, was rushed to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha after sustaining a serious gunshot wound in the stomach.

She was later taken by ambulance to St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg where her daughter, Petta van Ghent, 34, met her.

Approached by three men

Port St Johns police spokes­person Captain Mduduzi Godlwana said the victims were approached by three men, one of whom was armed with a pistol.

“The men appeared from a thick forest and fired several shots and hit the man in the right arm and behind the right ear.

“He died right away while his wife, who has a gunshot wound on the stomach, was rushed to hospital.”

He said Ingrith told the police that when the shots were fired, Gerald lost control of the couple’s double-cab Ford bakkie and it overturned.

Godlwana said one of the attackers ran to the vehicle and grabbed a wallet before they disappeared into the forest.

“We are working on something, and very soon we are going to make arrests because we have an eyewitness who knows one of the attackers,” he said.

Hawks investigating

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Ernest Sigobe said the Hawks, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, are investigating a case of murder, attempted murder and robbery with a firearm.

The couple from Howick were “cornered by three males in their thirties who fired several shots to the direction of the car”, Sigobe added.

He said police believe the motive for the attack was robbery. The stolen wallet contained an undisclosed amount of cash.

Ingrith’s sister-in-law, Eileen Rasmussen, said the couple had stayed in a hotel before moving to a campsite.

“They are great nature lovers and Gerald is a keen wildlife photographer.

“They chose the Wild Coast because of its breathtaking beauty and tranquillity.”

She said she had heard from her husband, Neil - who accompanied Ingrith from Mthatha - that her condition has improved.

The couple’s son, Gareth Roberts, 31, immediately flew from the Middle East, where he is working in nature conservation, to be with his mother.

Fears for local tourism industry

Port St Johns municipal manager Zola Hewu said the incident took him by surprise.

He said he feared that this might negatively affect the local tourism industry.

“Serious crimes like these are not normal in Port St Johns, according to crime statistics, although we do experience petty crime such as theft.

"Tourism is very important for our economy, and as a result we are negotiating with police authorities to intensify the investigation."

Hewu said the municipality has also appealed for more police visibility and patrols in the areas, which are mostly frequented by tourists.

He said police told him that the couple’s cameras were not taken.

- The Witness

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