A 33-year-old Prieska woman died just moments after her family found her in the local hospital after she was raped and brutally assaulted on the weekend.
Vanessa “Nessa” Barends, who is the daughter of a well-known retired nurse, was found beaten beyond recognition and connected to a heart machine in the Bill Pickard Hospital by family members yesterday after she was attacked the previous day.
According to information, her clothes were ripped from her body and she incurred severe head injuries after she was beaten to a pulp.
A passer-by who was on their way to work on Saturday found Barends on an open piece of land just a few metres from her home.
The passer-by alerted the police and she was admitted to hospital where she died the next day due to her injuries.
Her uncle, Booi BJ Barends, said the family has been left distraught following the incident.
“As a family we are traumatised and broken by this incident. It is something nobody expects to happen to their child. What is more traumatic is that it happened a few steps from her home. We are going through agony trying to figure out how this happened and whether she had screamed for help but nobody heard her,” he said.
He said that the family had started searching for Barends after she did not come home on Saturday.
“Nessa was at her brother’s house on Saturday. However, after she did not return home we started doing enquiries about her whereabouts. Her brother contacted the police. A detective who was at the scene showed her brother a picture of the woman who was attacked but we could not recognise her from that picture. The person who found Nessa was also not able to recognise her. The community members were also not able to recognise her and she was well-known to everyone in the area.
“We, however, decided to go to the hospital and later found out that it was her. We could hardly recognise her … Her head was swollen and she was hooked to a heart machine.”
He added that although Barends was connected to the heart machine, the family were still hopeful that she would recover.
“The nursing personnel said they had stabilised her but that she suffered severe head injuries. I was optimistic that she would wake up and did not dwell on her injuries.”
He said that Barends’ mother heard about the violent attack on an unknown woman while she was at church.
“The congregation at church was informed about a young woman who was attacked and they prayed for her. Nessa’s mother was amongst the congregants but did not at that stage know that it was her daughter.”
He said that while two people were arrested in connection with the incident, the family’s focus was currently on informing other family members and friends of Barends about her death.
The incident occurred on an open piece of land just a few metres from her home. Picture: Supplied
“We are still in shock and many family members want details on what transpired. Currently we ourselves do not have any information and are trying to come to terms with the incident as we have to repeatedly convey the news to others. We are leaving the arrests in the hands of the police and hope the law will deal with those responsible.”
He called on the community to come together to fight the scourge of violence in the town.
“We will have to join hands as a community and realise our children are no longer safe. We used to take care of and protect each other in this town. We need to educate our youth about the dangers they are facing daily.”
He added that while the incident is heartbreaking to the family, they hope that someone will learn from their pain.
“This incident occurred about 30 metres from Nessa’s home. Our youngsters need to be more careful and on the lookout for any danger they might face. One cannot trust anyone nowadays. It is heartbreaking because we do not want to raise our children to constantly look over their shoulders, however, the world is very cruel.”
Police spokesperson Captain Olebogeng Tawana said yesterday that two suspects, one of whom is a minor, have been arrested in connection with the incident.
“A 15-year-old boy and 24-year-old man have been arrested following the rape and murder of a woman in her early 30s. It is alleged that the victim was walking home when the pair accosted her and dragged her into a nearby yard where they took turns raping her,” said Tawana.
“The victim was spotted by a passer-by lying helplessly, half naked and brutally assaulted. She succumbed to her injuries and died while receiving medical treatment.
“The suspects were arrested after the police followed a lead. They are expected to appear before the Prieska Magistrate’s Court soon on charges of rape and murder.”
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