GARY van Onselen, the Uitenhage man who was found partially naked and clinging to life just metres away from a dead policeman last week, says he has “no recollection” of the man he was found with or how he himself sustained more than 20 stab wounds.
In his first words to the media since he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Uitenhage’s Cuyler Hospital last Thursday, Van Onselen told Weekend Post yesterday he only recalled “bits and pieces” of the day he was found near the body of Sergeant Willem Pretorius, of Sherwood in Port Elizabeth, who had been shot and stabbed several times in the chest.
This comes as police investigators early yesterday morning made their first real breakthrough in the case by arresting a 27-year-old Motherwell man suspected of having been involved in the case.
The organised crime division of the elite police Hawks unit, which was tasked with investigating the case, expect to make more arrests soon.
Van Onselen and Pretorius, who was based at Gelvandale police station, had separately been reported missing last Thursday.
Van Onselen’s abandoned motorbike was found in front of a Uitenhage shop while Pretorius, 36, was last seen at the Profiles gym in Walmer Downs early that morning.
The two were found near each other in a secluded clearing a few hundred metres from the R334 near Motherwell. Pretorius lay dead inside his black Chevrolet Spark, with Van Onselen semi-naked and bleeding heavily a few metres away.
A car radio was missing from the ransacked car that was discovered at about 11.30pm by a police helicopter conducting a routine operation in the area.
The attack has been shrouded in mystery and intrigue as the connection between the two men has still not been established and it is also not known how they came to be found together in the bush.
Police, however, have speculated that Pretorius may have picked up Van Onselen in Uitenhage as the bike enthusiast’s helmet was found in Pretorius’s Spark at the scene of the attack.
Grey in the face and with visible wounds stitched up to and around his neck, Van Onselen yesterday attributed his lack of memory of the incident to the medication given to him by doctors as part of his treatment.
“Ja, I’m in pain,” Van Onselen said, adding he was hoping to be released from hospital soon.
“When questioned about his movements before the attack, and about the attack itself, he said he could not remember much.
“I am only remembering bits and pieces. I feel like I am in a daze. I don’t remember leaving my bike and I don’t remember what happened after that.
“Perhaps my wife [Delayne van Onselen] can help fill in the gaps. I just don’t know,” he said.
“Van Onselen said he did not know who Pretorius was and when asked if he was aware the policeman had died, he denied any knowledge of this.
“I can’t remember. I really don’t know,” said Van Onselen, who said he worked at Cat WWL, a logistics company based in Uitenhage. Weekend Post has confirmed he is employed there as a supervisor.
While his wife, Delayne, was not at the couple’s home in Van Riebeeck Hoogte yesterday, their sons, Marcel, 15, and Reinier, 17, said the family was still in shock.
The boys said neither they nor their mother knew Pretorius.
“We don’t know what happened. It is still a mystery because no one knows what happened to my father,” said Marcel.
Pretorius will be buried at the Forest Hill Cemetery at 11.3am today following a funeral service at the Victory Ministries International Church in Gelvan Park at 10am.
A memorial service was also held for him at this church on Tuesday, with family and fellow SAPS staff paying tribute to the man he was. His wife, Zonda, and son, Kyle, were too distraught to speak.
While the motive for the attack has not yet been established by police, senior officials suspect it may have been an opportunistic botched robbery.
Police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Gerda Swart said the suspect was arrested at about 4am yesterday after detectives received a tip-off.
“The man was found hiding at his house in Motherwell. He was taken in for questioning and subsequently arrested,” she said.