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Saturday, 8 August 2009

Family set alight, cops arrive 2 hours later

By Sameer Naik, IOL

page_15842935 Two adults and 14-month-old twins are fighting for their lives after a heartlessly cruel attack.
The four were tied up at a Randburg house in Olympic Street, Blairgowrie, allegedly by a gang of four men, yesterday afternoon. They were doused in petrol and set alight.

The father managed to untie himself and hit the alarm. ADT security guards who responded alerted Netcare paramedics. Together the father and the security guard tried to put out the flames engulfing the toddlers and the woman.

'The baby girl is in the worst condition as she suffers from chest problems'

The police, however, arrived only almost two hours later, despite news of the attack being broadcast on the hour by 702 Talk Radio.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Mark Stokoe said the room in which the family had been tied up had been totally gutted by the blaze.

"When I arrived on the scene and entered the staff quarters, the mattresses, curtains and children's toys were all burnt. It looks like the victim lost everything in the fire."

The tiny twins lay on a stretcher with bandages wrapped around their entire bodies, hiding the terrible burns they had sustained.

Paramedics worked for more than an hour to stabilise the woman and the toddlers before airlifting the family to hospital. The babies were taken to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital's renowned burns unit.  Their parents, who are both said to be in their 30s, were taken to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

'After this incident I've decided to buy a shotgun'

Stokoe was not sure of the exact condition of the victims.

"All four were burnt. However, we are not sure of the extent of the burns yet. (They were all in a critical condition.)

"The baby girl is in the worst condition as she suffers from chest problems, so we are very concerned about the amount of smoke she inhaled."

Linden police finally arrived at the scene after hearing of the attack on the radio. Officers claimed they hadn't been alerted to the incident because their police radios were not working at the time, and they were forced to communicate via SMS.

Stokoe said it was unclear what exactly happened, but police confirmed there were no signs of forced entry. "It could have been a domestic dispute or armed robbery. We are unsure of what exactly happened. The owner of the house, however, did say she did not notice anything missing."
According to the domestic worker, Stokoe said, four men entered his quarters in Olympic Road around 2.20pm, tied him and his family up, before dousing them in petrol.

The owner of the house, who was at work at the time of incident, did not want to comment last night.

As the paramedics worked, horrified residents gathered at the scene.

Neighbours said that while they were appalled by the brutality of the crime, they weren't surprised by the police's late arrival.

A family friend, Eva Ramaboea, said the area had recorded several robberies in the past month, but police were not acting with urgency.

"They take very long to get to the scene, and by then the criminals are always gone. They need to jack up because this area is becoming dangerous and police are not doing anything to put us, as residents, at ease," said Ramaboea.

Maureen Aldworth, another neighbour, said: "It's absolutely horrific to see what has happened. The people who did this must be very sick, disgusting and demented, and I hope the police arrest them soon."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said he would take the law into his own hands because the "police cannot do their job properly".

"After this incident I've decided to buy a shotgun, and if any incident happens again, I will go myself and shoot the f***ers myself."

Many residents gathered outside the house said they were fed up with crime in Blairgowrie.

"There were three robberies in one week in the street I stay in, and each time the police were not on time at the scene. I hope the police learn from this incident and in the future arrive on time," said Aldworth.

Another resident said she had been living in Blairgowrie for years but had never heard of such an incident in her life.

"I've lived here for 26 years yet I don't know most of my neighbours, because everybody has their huge wall in front of their house. If we all knew each other, it could have helped in incidents such as today's."