Premier reunites Alison’s team
More than 20 years have passed since Alison Botha was brutally raped and left for dead in Port Elizabeth.
And on Thursday, for the first time since the attack, Botha and four of the major role-players in her survival and the subsequent trial came together in the city where the tragic incident happened.
In December 1994 Botha was hijacked and taken to a remote location along the Port Elizabeth coastline where her two attackers raped her before stabbing her more than 30 times and slitting her throat.
She managed, however, to get back to the main road, where she was found and rushed to hospital.
Frans du Toit received three life sentences, while Theuns Kruger received one life sentence plus 25 years’ imprisonment for their crimes.
And a lot has happened between 1994 and Thursday night’s Port Elizabeth premier of Alison The Movie. While everyone has moved on, they all carry a bit of Botha’s story with them, even today.
When she is not travelling the world telling her story of recovery, she likes to spend time at her home on the Garden Route with her two sons, aged 12 and nine.
This is just around the corner from where her mother lives.
“My travels and talks keep me pretty busy and I have very little time to spend on anything else, so all the spare time I have I spend privately, at home with my family,” Botha, 48, said.
She said there had been two tragic events in her life – first the attack, and then the failure of her marriage.
“But both these low-lights led me to the greatest highlights of my life. The attack has put me on this path where I get to travel the world and help inspire other people, while my marriage gave me two beautiful boys when everyone said I would never have children,” she said.
She has travelled to 35 countries to share her story.
“I love seeing the reactions from different people when they watch the movie, the way people come to me afterwards and tell me what it meant to them.”
What surprised her most was the way many men reacted to her story, with many unable to read her book or sit through the film.
“I think many men take it personally, or they feel guilty about what other men did to me. But I want to tell them it is not necessary. There are more good men than bad men out there,” Botha said.
He found her lying in the road in December 1994 and stayed with her until the ambulance arrived.
At the time, Eilard, from Gauteng, was studying to become a veterinary technologist and was visiting Port Elizabeth on holiday.
However, that night changed the trajectory of his life.
“I wasn’t convinced being a vet was for me, and I was planning to abandon my studies to pursue something different,” Eilard, 42, said. “Initially I wanted to study medicine, and that night with Alison put me back on that path.”
Through his military service he started studying to become a doctor, and did as many courses in first aid, paramedics and health sciences as he could to improve his CV before he applied at the Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa), now known as the University of Limpopo.
Afterwards he completed a diploma in anaesthesiology and now practises as an anaesthetist in Gauteng, where he lives with his wife and three children.
Over the years Eilard stayed in contact with Botha and they even shared more special moments.
“I flew down to the Garden Route to be the anaesthetist assisting in the birth of Alison’s second son.”
He says the film portrays the emotions around the attack well without adding too much gore.
“I hope Alison’s story can help bring some change in our violent society,” Eilard said.
The 70-year-old doctor is a former head of ICU at Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital where Botha was treated.
“I think I put the entire incident out of my mind as a sort of coping mechanism,” Comyn said.
“I never had any contact with anyone from that incident until they approached me for the film and by then enough time had passed for me to be able to revisit that night without it being too difficult for me.”
He describes writing down the events of the night Botha came to his ICU as very emotional.
“I feel the film was very true to historic events and portrays the massive amount of courage Alison summoned to pull herself out of those circumstances and live the life she is living today.”
Comyn retired from private practice in Port Elizabeth in 2001 and spent the next 10 years travelling between South Africa and the United Kingdom, working as a doctor in both countries.
Between 2011 and 2014 he did the same between South Africa and Australia, before settling in the Eastern Cape town of Bedford.
In October he will be moving to Cape Town, where he will head up the Hummingbird Cancer Centre, specialising in a new treatment.
Comyn is married and has three children and six grandchildren.
He enjoyed meeting up with everyone involved with Botha’s story at the film’s premier.
Humpel, 60 , was the detective in charge of Botha’s case.
“The last time we all saw each other, the circumstances were a lot different. Now, things are much happier and it feels good to have played my little part in such an amazing story,” Humpel said.
He stayed in contact with Botha over the years and regards her as a very special person. “She did not let those events dictate her life,” he said.
Botha’s story also played a part in his recovery when he lost both of his legs in a freak accident 12 years ago. He was felling a tree in Walmer when a log fell on him.
“My daughter is physically disabled, so I had dealt with disability for a long time before my accident. And with people like my daughter and Alison in my life, it really helped me pick myself up.”
He now runs the warehouse for a large furniture company in Port Elizabeth, where he lives with his wife of 40 years. He has three children and two grandchildren.
To this day, Bakker is reminded of Botha’s attackers as she often drives past scenes of other crimes they committed, or where they lived at the time.
Bakker, 52, was the public prosecutor in Botha’s case.
She prefers to focus on the remarkable people, like Botha, who decided to be more than victims and came forward to put help put the criminals behind bars.
“Their testimony put rapists and murderers away,” Bakker said.
She gave birth four days after Du Toit and Kruger were convicted, and the day they were sentenced was the first night her six-week-old son slept right through the night. “It was like my son knew.” Over the past 20 years, she has been a senior advocate, senior prosecutor and deputy director of public prosecutions before leaving to start her own private practice at the end of 2014.
She still lives in Port Elizabeth with her husband and son.
Bakker said she felt blessed to see where all the role-players were in their lives now.