EVANDER – They just prayed together as they laid head to head on the living room floor while the gunmen ransacked the house.
Messrs Johan van Zyl (34) and Fred Mills (59) believe this helped them remain calm in the midst of an armed robbery at Mr van Zyl’s home in Pretoria Road last Tuesday night, 30 October.
“One of the robbers was about to shoot me, but then the leader of the pack told him in Zulu that this is not what they came here to do. I was very relieved when he removed the barrel from my back where he had shoved it under my rib cage,” said Mr van Zyl.
A few hours before, the two friends were planning a movie night.
Mr Mills parked his bakkie behind his friend’s vehicle as the front yard is very bushy and not fenced.
“I am in the process of buying the house and I wanted to erect palisades, but was advised against it and told to wait until the sale has gone through before making modifications,” Mr van Zyl told the newspaper.
That night the two friends went outside onto the porch several times to smoke.
They were heading back into the house at about 8.15pm when the robbers struck.
“Fred was already sitting down and I collected the key to the safety door off the nearby counter. As I turned around to lock the safety door, I saw this man rack the slide of a pistol that was pointed at my head,” said Mr van Zyl.
The robbers wore balaclavas.
The friends obeyed when told to lie down on the ground. They kept their heads and faces down as not to provoke their attackers.
Mr Mills said they referred to him as “the old man”.
“They made me sit up once to search my pockets and then ordered me to lie down again.”
While Mr Mills was upright, he noticed one of the robbers had dreadlocks.
Messrs van Zyl and Mills were stretched out with their heads near each other, that is when they just held each other’s hands and prayed.
The robbers carried out TVs and the surround sound system, a PlayStation 3, several games, most of the electrical appliances, clothes, jewellery and bottles of alcohol given to Mr van Zyl as a birthday gift.
“I thought it rather odd that they took a plastic utensil set from the kitchen, two pairs of size 12 safety boots, and even my dining room carpet! Oh, and the six pack beer in the fridge.”
There were, in fact, several “odd things” that happened that night.
The robbers neatly left the house keys, the car keys and the remote controls of the stolen television and surround sound system on the coffee table.
Mr Mills’ bank card was not in his wallet when they emptied it.
He thought he had forgotten it in the pocket of another pair of pants he wore earlier that day. The robbers searched him but found nothing. However, when he went through his pockets after the ordeal, he found the card in his pocket.
The robbers stole Mr van Zyl’s wallet and ripped open a panel while searching in his bakkie.
They also kept on asking if the vehicle was fitted with a tracker device. However, they were unable to steal the vehicle, because Mr Mills’ bakkie was in the way.
Several attempts to start the bakkie failed and the robbers decided to quit.
Mr Mills said it required just a little patience to start his vehicle. The robbers also never noticed the electronic devices in another room, because they could not find the light switch.
The gunmen furthermore also left behind four pillows which were later found between the shrubs in the yard.
“I am not sure if these were brought to use as silencers when they shoot us or if it was used to make their wait in the garden more comfortable,” explained Mr van Zyl.
The gunmen did not tie up their victims. They ordered the two friends into the bathroom and told them to stay there until they left.
Mr van Zyl ran to his brother’s house across the road and they alerted the police.
He is thankful that his daughter was not at home at the time of the robbery.
“I might have reacted quite differently if my child was in danger.”