Brit relives bloodbath horror as gang storm family barbecue and execute woman
Sisters Brenda Thomas and Heila Kilian share hugs, smiles and glasses of wine at a family barbecue… just moments before horror was unleashed on them.
These blissful scenes were followed by murder and merciless torture as an armed gang swooped on a quiet South African farm.
Five men wearing balaclavas and orange jumpsuits emerged from the shadows and walked silently in single file towards the group.
Heila, 63, was shot in the back. A bullet from a 9mm gun pierced her heart and she died in a pool of blood.
Brenda, 64, her British husband David and friend Shaun Vorster were tied up and beaten relentlessly.
The gang demanded money and weapons – and declared that they “hate whites”.
Jamie Pyatt News Ltd)
The unimaginable violence came as devout Christian David, 69, from Effingham, Surrey, had been playing his guitar and singing gospel songs while Shaun, 54, was cooking chicken.
They were at the Thomases’ farm in South Africa and it was 10.30pm on April 16, 2018 – a time and date forever etched in their minds.
Heila’s death was the start of a two-hour torture ordeal. Brenda managed to wriggle free from her ties and fled – only to be caught, dragged back and beaten again.
David’s head was repeatedly bashed against a wall. The three feared they would die too. But, remarkably, Brenda broke loose again and ran across snake and scorpion-infested grasslands to raise the alarm.
The gang panicked and fled in David’s Toyota Hilux car after snatching £2,000 from a safe, jewellery, weapons and ammunition.
But the vehicle – traced to a backstreet garage – would be their downfall and four men were convicted at the George Circuit High Court in Western Province last week.
Jamie Pyatt News Ltd)
Heila’s husband Hein, 69 – a retired police commander who was not at the party – welcomed the convictions as “final closure”, despite one gang member not being found.
Five men were in court – Sakhumzi Benya, 30, Nkosihethu Nocuza, 26, Msomi Nikani, 26, Monwabisi Maki, 24, and Xolusani Myoyi, 30.
They denied murdering Heila, robbery, theft and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Judge Lister Nuku found four of them guilty but cleared Myoyi.
David and his South African wife Brenda sold their farm after the nightmare and moved to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to start afresh.
But they returned for the trial.
Cornelle Carstens/Mossel Bay Advertiser)
Recounting Heila’s murder for the first time, chartered engineer David – whose two sons live in the UK – said: “The gang appeared out of the pitch black in line, commando-style, from behind Heila and I could see at least one gun.
“A man just raised it and fired a single shot. It pierced her heart and she was taken from us.
“Heila died instantly and the only saving grace for us is that she did not know she was in any danger and would have known nothing about it.”
The court heard David and Brenda had picked up Heila the day before at George Airport and returned to their farm at Still Bay, in the middle of the popular Garden Route between Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.
David ran the farm as a coffee shop and Christian drop-in centre. Speaking after the convictions, Brenda told how she had fled her captors.
She said: “After catching me the first time they beat me, then forgot about me. I lay in a heap pretending that I had collapsed.
“I tried and tried and somehow managed to get my hands free and then my feet and knew I had to run – but also knew that if they caught me a second time they would kill me as well as David and Shaun.
“But I was pretty certain they weren’t going to leave us alive to be witnesses either, so I really had no choice.
“They had left me by a 10ft sheer drop at the back of the house which was the only way out without trying to get past them. So I prepared myself, jumped and got a good landing – then ran into the darkness.
“I could still hear the screams from the farm and then it all went quiet and I realised they had probably found out I was gone and were coming for me.
“It was thick vegetation behind the farm with jagged rocks and sharp thorn bushes and you could not see your hand in front of your face. And I knew of all the snakes, scorpions and spiders out there in the dark.
“I could hear the gang but they seemed a long way off and I began to feel safer. Then I ran into a barbed wire fence and realised I was at the road and I just wriggled beneath it and lay on my stomach.
“I heard the gang moving away and guessed they had given up and I later found from my husband that when they returned to the farm they were panicking that I had managed to raise the alarm.
“They turned their attention away from David and Shaun and loaded up my husband’s station wagon with stolen guns and my jewellery and £2,000 which they had taken from the safe inside the farm.
“David and Shaun had managed to get free after the gang fled and went for help at a local farm.
“But they said they believed what saved them from being killed was the gang thinking I called police.”
Divorcees David and Brenda met in Dubai, where he working as an engineer for a US corporation and Brenda was teaching art at school. They married eight years later in the UK.
Brenda added: “I am told what I did was very brave.
“But I could see no other way to save my husband or Shaun and, to be honest, myself, unless I could go and fetch help.”
The guilty four will be given the mandatory life sentence for murder.
But the case was adjourned until next April when the gang will learn the minimum terms they must serve before eligible to seek parole.