A Port Elizabeth pensioner who died after what was thought to be a fall following a stroke, is now believed to have been murdered. The startling turn of events follows a postmortem, which revealed she had been savagely beaten.
Sandra Haupt, 72, was found bloodied and unconscious in their Central retirement cottage by her husband, Paul, 75, on Tuesday afternoon (21/03/17).
She died shortly after being rushed to hospital.
Haupt’s family, Nazareth House staff and police initially thought her death was accidental.
But police now believe Haupt was brutally bludgeoned with a pickaxe handle and left for dead in the cottage in Upper Dickens Street.
Police had initially treated the incident as an inquest case as no foul play was suspected.
According to police, Haupt had a stroke three weeks ago, which had led them and her husband to believe she had fallen while suffering another stroke.
No sign of forced entry was evident at the cottage. It was only noticed hours later that some items were missing.
Detectives suspect Haupt was killed in a robbery, in which a laptop and cellphone were stolen.
A reporter was denied entry to House yesterday.
A guard stood at the front perimeter gate, screening those wanting to enter.
Management also declined to comment, referring all questions to the board.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said Haupt had been taken to hospital after her husband found her bloodied and unconscious inside the cottage.
“She was still alive when she was discovered. Shortly after arriving at hospital, she passed away,” Labans said.
“As no foul play was suspected at the time, an inquest was opened for investigation.
“During the course [of the investigation] the woman’s husband noticed a laptop and cellphone were missing from the house.
“The [postmortem] revealed that she had, in fact, been severely beaten, [with her injuries including] broken cheekbones and ribs.”
Labans said on receiving the new information, detectives were sent to scour the area and found a bloodied pickaxe handle.
“[It] was found hidden in nearby abandoned premises. We suspect that this was used in the attack,” he said.
Labans confirmed that no windows or doors had been broken during the attack.
The postmortem revealed that Haupt had suffered blunt-force trauma.
The pickaxe handle has been sent to the police laboratory in an attempt to identify the killer.
Nazareth House board member Angelo Dashwood, who is in Cape Town, said he would be flying back to Port Elizabeth today to assess concerns.
“It is premature for me to comment at this stage as I need to determine exactly what happened,” he said.