Hopes for the recovery of Schoenmakerskop resident Elaine Allwright, who was savagely attacked in her home 10 days ago, took a tragic turn yesterday when the 78-year-old succumbed to her injuries.
This follows the invasion of Allwright and her partner Ken Alexander’s Marine Drive house in the early hours of Tuesday last week when, despite being viciously assaulted, she managed to escape through a bedroom window.
Alexander, 76, was killed in the attack, with police first believing he had been shot in the face due to the devastating nature of his wounds.
But he had, in fact, been brutally beaten to death.
After regaining consciousness and showing slow signs of recovery, Allwright who had severe skull and hand fractures as well as bleeding on the brain died at Life St George’s Hospital at 10am.
News of her death triggered a sombre and tense atmosphere in the Schoenmakerskop hamlet, with residents saying they had been sleeping with one eye open – if at all.
According to friends and family members, Allwright had seemed to be recovering slowly as she had been moved from the intensive care unit to high care and eventually to a regular ward on Friday last week, frequently communicating with a steady stream of visitors.
Family member Sandy Stock was at Allwright’s bedside yesterday when she died.
“She seemed to be doing better and recovering slowly until yesterday [Wednesday],” Stock said. “She became weak and very tired – at that point, we didn’t know which way it would go.
“But perhaps it is better this way.
At least she won’t have to live without Ken.
“I was at her bedside when she passed [away].
“We are now awaiting word from Ken’s sister in the UK as to her arrival, and another of
Elaine’s cousins will be arriving next week from Johannesburg.”
Wiping away the tears rolling down her cheeks, Schoenmakerskop resident Natalie Kerr – the wife of artist Greg who had sold a collection of paintings to raise funds for Allwright’s medical expenses – said: “We want justice. “People are stunned by her passing and we all send our deepest condolences to the family.
“Everyone is so anxious here – people are having sleepless nights.
“Even when you [the reporter] pulled up, I nearly had a heart attack.
“Things have just not been the same since the attack happened.
“All of a sudden you find yourself suspicious of everyone.
“We all deeply respected that couple – they were truly wonderful people and will be sincerely missed.”
Another of Allwright’s neighbours, who asked not to be named as she feared for her safety, said: “I am utterly shocked by the way things happened and the tragic way it ended.
“The attack was brutal and senseless. We are all concerned for our safety because of it.”
Donations had continued to flow in yesterday to pay for Allwright’s initially estimated R235 000 hospi- tal and medical care bill.
By Wednesday night, more than R260 000 had been collected.
Schoenmakerskop residents also raised R25 000 that is being offered as a reward for any information on the killer or killers.
Stock said she was unable to provide an exact figure for the hospital expenses at present.
Schoenmakerskop Ratepayers’ Association chairman Andre Lemmer said the residents would have a meeting shortly to decide what would be done with any surplus amount.
“This [Allwright’s death] definitely has the whole village on edge,” he said.
“It is with deep regret that we learnt about Elaine’s passing.
“It really came as a shock as we thought she was recovering nicely.
“At least she had Sandy [Stock] by her side when she died.
“She was responding when we [visited] – she knew who we were.
“So when we heard about her death it truly was a shock. In fact, we had been planning a memorial for Ken this past Saturday at the tennis club, him being chair of the tennis and social clubs in the area.
“But we then decided to postpone and wait for Elaine to be discharged – and now this.
“We will definitely have some sort of a memorial for them.
“We will also have a meeting to decide what to do with the extra money.”
Life Health spokeswoman Ailsa Thorpe said Allwright’s devastated family had asked the St George’s Hospital to release a message.
It read: “We wish to thank everyone in the community of Schoenmakerskop, Port Elizabeth and further afield for their support and kindness during this devastating time.”
Thorpe said since Allwright regained consciousness and was moved to a general ward, the hospital had been inundated with requests from members of the public to come visit her.
In the two days after the attack, internationally renowned artist Kerr, 68, a close friend of Allwright’s, sold a collection of 40 oil paintings, entitled Remote Associations, at R2 000 a piece and contributed R80 000 to the medical expense fund.
Schoenmakerskop resident Martin Weihs also paid R30 000 for Allwright’s hospital admission fee, hours after the attack.
Although police first believed Alexander had been shot, a postmortem showed that he died from blunt force trauma to the head and face.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said following Allwright’s death, the charges had been changed to two counts of murder and one of house robbery.
“There have been no new developments [in the investigation] as yet,” she said.
“However, we are still awaiting the DNA and forensic test results.”