A British woman has been murdered and her husband left for dead after a group of men broke into their South African home, beat them up and repeatedly burned them with a blowtorch.
Following a trend of violent farm attacks in Mpualanga province, this month, Sue Howarth, 64, and husband Robert Lynn, 66, were asleep in bed on their farm in the Dullstroom area of South Africa ,when three black males broke in through a window at 2.0 am on Sunday.
They tied the terrified couple up before launching an attack described as “pure and hateful and pointless torture”.
During the home invasion, the robbers refused to believe the couple did not have a safe. They tied up the retired couple, burned them all over their bodies with a blowtorch as they screamed for help on their remote farm 150 miles from Pretoria.
They helpless victims police said, were put through a horrific ordeal lasting several hours in which they were savagely beaten around the head and burned again and again and later both shot.
Eventually the three men bundled the home owners into their own pick up truck with plastic bags over their heads and tape around their necks and drive off. Finally Sue was shot twice in the head and Robert in the neck, before being dumped by the roadside on a mountain pass.
Stock image: The couple endured hours of torture with a blow torch before they were trussed up and shot
to ensure the victims died, Sue had a plastic bag jammed down her throat and Robert had a bag tied round his neck to strangle him. Still, Robert Lynn survived and managed to free himself, then locate his critically injured wife, nearby.
Police said she was unrecognisable from her injuries and was in a coma.
After her husband raised the alarm she was rushed to hospital, but died 48 hours later.
She had multiple fractures to her skull, gunshot wounds and horrific burns from the blow torch to her breasts. Her life support machine had to be turned off due to severity of her injuries, on Tuesday morning. Lynn was treated in the intensive care unit and has returned to his farm.
Addressing the media on the case, police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathis said: “They were sleeping on Sunday when they were attacked by three men.
“This was violent and horrific attack and we are searching for those responsible.”
He said terrified Sue was tied and burned with a blow torch and shot and beaten and that her husband was also burned and stabbed repeatedly.
Doctors treated him for multiple knife wounds to his stomach hands and neck and a bullet remains in his neck where he was shot by one of the gang.
this window in the early hours of Sunday morning
According to Mr Nico Uys, chairman of the Dullstroom Farmers Association , the couple were no longer active farmers, but had been pensioners living on the farm.
The couple’s blue Nissan pickup truck was found abandoned in Middleburg.
Distraught Lynn who has been discharged from hospital and returned to their farm told the Middleburg Observer he had to “face the demons,” He said.
“I have to come to terms with losing my best friend.
“I woke up because the dogs were barking and there was a racket at the bedroom window. After I stood up, I heard glass breaking.
“I suppose that is when they started shooting at us. I assumed they missed. They were wearing balaclavas and attacked us”.
Lynn was pistol whipped with a gun and ordered to lie down.
He said: “They kept on asking where the money is. I told them that we don’t keep money but they would not believe me.”
South African police are investigating the farm attack in Dullestrom
A close friend, Claire Taylor, who shared the farm with Claire said they both also shared a passion for Border Collies and are regular competitors in the South African Sheep Dog Trials.
Taylor invited a press photographer into the hospital to photograph Sue in bed to show the full horror of what local white farmers are going through.
She said:”Sue is such a powerful person. She is so strong. She is straight shooter.
“She would have wanted the world to see what happened to her. What they did to her” she said in the intensive care unit while husband Robert was being treated 100 yards away in the surgical unit.
Unfortunately, Sue never recovered from her coma and died on Tuesday morning.
The couple lived on a farm called Marshland with their three border collie rescue dogs. Before settling in Dullstroom, Sue was at the head of a pharmaceutical company in South African capital city, Johannesburg. She kept her maiden hame after marrying Robert who was an electrical engineer for Eskom.
A reward is being put together by friends of the couple to help track down the killers.
A task team has been established to work on the case around the clock, according to Col. Phela Mahlangu, head of the detectives at the Middelburg Cluster.