LAST month, British woman Sue Howarth and her husband Robert Lynn were woken at 2am by three men breaking into a window of their remote farm in Dullstroom, a small town in the northeast of South Africa, about 240km from the nearest capital city.
The couple, who had lived in the area for 20 years, were tied up, stabbed, and tortured with a blowtorch for several hours. The masked men stuffed a plastic bag down Mrs Howarth’s throat, and attempted to strangle her husband with a bag around his neck.
The couple were bundled into their own truck, still in their pyjamas, and driven to a roadside where they were shot. Mrs Howarth, 64, a former pharmaceutical company executive, was shot twice in the head. Mr Lynn, 66, was shot in the neck.
Miraculously he survived, and managed to flag down a passer-by early on Sunday morning. Mrs Howarth, who police said was “unrecognisable” from her injuries, had multiple skull fractures, gunshot wounds and “horrific” burns to her breasts.
“Sue was discovered amongst some trees, lying in a ditch,” writes Jana Boshoff, reporter for the local Middelburg Observer newspaper. “Her rescuers managed to find her by following her groans of pain and then noticing drag marks from the road into the field.
“Her head was covered with a towel. Her eyes were swollen shut. She was partially clothed with just scraps of her shirt remaining. Her breasts and upper body was bloody. The plastic bag, shoved down her throat, took some effort to remove because her jaw was clamped down tightly.
“How she managed to breathe with the bag in her throat remains a mystery. One of her rescuers later recalled how Sue was unresponsive except for the constant groaning. Whilst the man ran back to the road to see if an ambulance has not arrived yet, she managed to curl one of her arms around her breasts in a last attempt to protect herself.”
She was rushed to hospital and placed on life support, but died two days later. Due to her British nationality, her murder attracted an unusual amount of overseas media attention.