In what is believed to be the 15th farm murder this month in crime-ridden South Africa, the British woman died after a horrific attack, during which robbers burned her with a blow torch before shooting her and stuffing a plastic bag down her throat.
The British newspaper The Telegraph reports Sue Howarth, 64, and her husband Robert Lynn, 66, were asleep when they were attacked in their farmhouse near the trout fishing village of Dullstroom around 3am.
The paper quotes Johan Pieterse, the manager of the security company that found the couple. “The attackers broke into the house through a window and demanded cash. There was no money in the house so they used a blow torch on them… Mr Lynn was stabbed in his stomach, hands and neck. Mrs Howarth was burned on her face.”
The attackers forced the couple into their pickup truck before driving off. Shortly afterwards Mr Lynn was shot in the neck and dumped in the bush with a black plastic bag tied over his head.
When the attackers drove off, he stumbled towards the road between the small towns of between Belfast and Stoffberg, where he found Mrs Howarth, unconscious with a bag shoved down her throat.
A passerby found the couple and stopped to help. A security officer arrived soon after and cut the bag off Mrs Howarth’s head. “Our officer called an ambulance and the police,” Mr Pieterse said.
The couple were taken to a hospital in Middelburg where Mrs Howarth was treated for multiple skull fractures. Both victims had burn wounds.
Mrs Howarth, who was known as “The English Girl” by her friends in Dullstroom, never regained consciousness. Her life support was switched off on Tuesday. Mr Lynn was released from hospital on Wednesday.
Police found the couple’s pickup truck abandoned in front of a tavern in Middelburg on Tuesday morning. Farmers in the area have rallied around Mr Lynn, who is at home and in shock.
Mr Pieterse said the attack on the couple was one of the worst he had experienced in his career in the security industry. “I was fine until I went to see Robert last night,” he said. “What I saw is not normal… The way they were tortured, it’s not human. When I spoke to Robert, it tore me apart. I don’t know how he is coping.”
The Middleburg Observer reports they have heard from a’ trusted source’ that police arrested five suspects in connection with the farm attack and murder after a family friend, Vincent Taylor, offered a £1200 reward for information that will lead to arrests.
Mrs Howarth was well known at sheepdog trials in the area. She kept three rescue Border Collies on her farm.
The attack comes only a week after British grandparents Roger and Christine Solik – who moved from Wales to South Africa in 1981 – were killed in the robbery at their countryside estate in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Police are still hunting for the killers who broke into the couples house before tying them up and dumping them in a river. Christine, 57, was found dead in a river 45 miles from her home and the body of Parkinson’s sufferer Roger, 66, discovered the next day.
Last week Monday, a family of four was shot and killed on their farm in the town Balfour, about two hours drive south of where Mrs Howarth was attacked. Mr Gert Smuts, 78, his wife Paulina Smuts, 70, their son and daughter-in-law, were killed in their home.
The civil rights group, Afriforum, which held a wreath laying for the couple on Thursday, said Mrs Howarth is the 15th person to have been killed in a farm attack in South Africa this month.
Mrs Howarth’s family are due to travel to to South Africa to attend a memorial for her in Dullstroom. She will be cremated and her ashes flown back to the England.