Brutal farm attack rocks family, but they won’t let robbers have final say
They endured a gruelling ordeal of abuse and gunfire that left dad near death, but kids are still writing exams
Matric student Tony van Wyk and his younger half brother and sister are determined to make their dad proud in year-end exams as he fights to survive 10 gunshot wounds inflicted upon him during a home invasion last week.
Johan van Wyk, 40, was relaxing with his family at their Broederstroom home last Sunday when three gunmen burst onto their property with guns blazing.
“Our children have lost their innocence,” says his fiancée, Hanli Barnard, who before the attack was still planning their wedding for December 15.
She said the three children, Tony, who is writing his final matric exams, Elrine, 13, and “Klein” Johan, 11, were determined to make their dad proud and not give the gunmen any influence over their lives.
“The schools said they did not have to write exams. But all have said they will. Klein Johan has never missed a day of school and he insists on going to class so he can improve his marks for his dad. Both Elrine and Tony are determined to pass their exams.”
But certainly the day of the attack will forever haunt the family, who are tenants on the chicken farm in Broederstroom in North West Province.
Their father and Barnard were sitting on the stoep when the attack occurred shortly before 8pm.
Van Wyk, a mechanic, was shot 10 times as he pushed Barnard into their lounge, the bullets shattering his hips and three fingers on his left hand, and piercing his lungs and intestines.
Tony, who was in the kitchen at the time of the attack, managed to grab Klein Johan and run to neighbours through an open sliding door, as two of the gunmen fired at them as they fled across a field.
Hearing the gunshots, Barnard feared the worst, thinking the two were dead when the gunmen came back into the house laughing.
The attackers then turned on Barnard’s youngest son, five-year-old JC, and Elrine, holding guns to their heads and threatening to execute them in front of their parents and grandmother if they did not hand over weapons, money and jewellery.
Unable to defend themselves, Van Wyk and Barnard were forced to watch in horror as the robbers continued to threaten the children unless their demands were met.
A quick-thinking Elrine managed to convince the gunmen that there were no weapons in the house, when she told them her father had handed them over to the police the day before.
Barnard said she could not believe it when they accepted what Elrine told them.
“They suddenly let JC and Elrine go. They started grabbing things – our jewellery, TVs, cellphones and valuables.
“As they were leaving one of them turned to our dining room table and asked what was inside the bags that were on top of it. When I told them it was things for our wedding, he laughed, turned around, kicked Johan and asked why I would want to marry a dead man.”
As the gunmen escaped, firing at neighbours and farm workers who had come to the family’s aid, Barnard dragged her fiance’s broken body through the house to safety.
She said one of the hardest moments was hearing the gunshots as Tony and Klein Johan fled.
“I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. When the robbers left they had taken our phones. I couldn’t find them. I was rushing to get Johan into the car to take him to hospital.”
With Van Wyk in the car, along with Elrine and JC and two neighbours, she raced to a nearby hospital.
“Johan kept on passing out. I was yelling at him to stay awake.”
She said doctors rushed Van Wyk into surgery where they stabilised him before he was taken to Helen Joseph Hospital.
“He is recovering well. Minute by minute he is getting better. It’s a miracle.”
An emotional Barnard told Times Select they felt as though the attack had lasted an eternity.
“When I heard the dog bark and turned around and saw the men and their guns, I thought this was it. I thought this is how my family’s lives were going to end.
“There was not a sound. Just the shooting. Bullet after bullet. They kept on firing. It was only once they were in the house that they began to yell and scream.
“I remember everything in slow motion. I remember Johan pushing me into the lounge and then blood everywhere. My memory blanks out, but I remember finding JC in a cupboard in a bedroom, screaming, and then the robbers grabbing him from me, putting a gun to his head and threatening to kill him. That and the hatred in their eyes.
“We are fortunate that no one was killed but what has happened has shattered our lives. We have lost our home, and our children their innocence. We have been forced sell off our farm animals, and the few valuable possessions we have left, to cover the medical costs from the first hospital we took Johan too.”
She said that despite everything the children were determined not to let the attack take control of their lives.
Just a day before the attack the couple were handing out invitations to their wedding on December 15. “Johan is still determined that we will get married on that day,” Barnard said.
Police spokesperson Captain Tinyiko Mathebula said no arrests have been made.