Hankey farm attack suspect appears in court

Handcuffs. File picture.
Handcuffs. File picture.
Image: Suhaib Salem

The man who allegedly attacked a woman and her three children in their Hankey farmhouse last month appeared in the Patensie Magistrate's Court on Tuesday morning.

The 32-year-old man, who cannot be named until he pleads, was caught last week after fleeing the town.

Police confirmed that the man was a former farm employee of the family that he attacked.

He was arrested after police tracked the suspected attacker down to a small town near Palmietfontein – about 3 km’s from the Lesotho border – in the Eastern Cape.

The arrest stems from an attack of a 44-year-old woman, and her three children, who were accosted inside their farm house during the late hours of March 23 and into the early hours of March 24.

A group of farmers and residents gathered at the court to show their support to the victim.

The woman, who commutes between her Hankey home and her business in Port Elizabeth, is not being identified due to the nature of the attack.

The man was charged and will remain in custody while detectives continue their investigation.

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that after consulting with the state prosecutor, a decision was made to change the chargers.

"The man was charged in court for two counts of rape, house robbery, four counts of kidnapping, three counts of attempted murder, theft, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm." Naidu said.

“At this stage, the case is still under investigation and various aspects of the probe are still under way. This includes an identity parade that has to be held,” she said.

“We can confirm that he used to be employed by the family and worked on their farm until December 2016 when he left.” Naidu said that as the investigation continues, more charges could be added.

The arrest comes after a team of detectives from the Port Elizabeth-based Provincial Organised Crime Investigation unit travelled to the Palmietfontein area last week Wednesday.

The team tracked him down to a family home in the Kwa Guna administrative area in the Nketlana Location, near the Lesotho border.

Police found the man in possession of stolen clothing and takkies taken during the incident.

The brazen attack saw the lone attacker enter the house by firing several shots through a glass door, wounding the mother in the lower back while she was trying to shield her children.

The man then took the woman, in her vehicle, to an ATM into town to withdraw cash.

While the suspect was withdrawing cash, the victim managed to drive off to another farm and police were alerted.

The next court appearance will be in the Hankey Magistrate’s Court on April 16.