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East resident still has sleepless nights after armed robbery attack

“I am struggling to sleep at night, I am nervous. I still have nightmares after the ordeal. I will never forget their faces, the intimidation in their eyes..”

Two Pretoria East residents who were victims of an armed robbery last month, were still traumatised by what they had been put through.

“I just felt really helpless and feared for my life for the first time.”

These were the words of the 36-year-old Francois van Zyl after three men armed with 9mm pistols, gained access to his grandparents’ house in Lochiel Street, Faerie Glen in the east of Pretoria.

“I am struggling to sleep at night, I am nervous. I still have nightmares after the ordeal. I will never forget their faces, the intimidation in their eyes…”

The three men gained entry to their home through the front door early on the afternoon of Saturday, 18 July.

Van Zyl’s grandmother Yvonne Schuurman (77) had left the house around 14:00 for grocery shopping. Van Zyl’s wife, Helen, was also not at home at the time of the attack.

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Van Zyl was in his bedroom when suddenly he saw one of the men’s face outside his window.

The next moment the second man was standing behind him and and told him that he must not make a sound “otherwise I will kill you”.

The 36-year-old lost the use of the left side to his body and lives with motor skills difficulties after his lungs collapsed when he was born.

“The one man asked me how many we are in the house. He put me in my bed as I told him that I cannot walk by myself. He told me I should lay down on my stomach on the bed as he wanted to tie my hands behind my back.

“I pleaded with him to take me to my grandfather, Peter Schuurman (75), who was in the main bedroom at the time. He agreed. I took my walking frame and moved to my grandfather’s room.

“My grandfather started shouting, but he was also told to keep quiet.”

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Two years ago, Peter suffered a stroke that affected his communication skills.

“The attacker kept on asking me where the key to the safe was. The more I told him I didn’t know, the more he insisted that I go look for the key as he will either shoot me or my grandfather.

“Later, a third man entered the room with a screwdriver to loosen the screws in the wall.

“I am just relieved that my grandmother did not arrive back home when the men were still in the house. I do not even want to think what might have happened.

“Were they watching us? They must have known that it was only myself and my grandfather and that we are ‘soft targets’.”

Somehow Van Zyl managed to press the panic button next to the bed.

“The security company tried to get hold of me, but the robbers had taken my cellphone.

“They then phoned my grandmother and told her they cannot get hold of me.”

The attackers managed to escape an hour later, with the safe and electronic equipment such as televisions, cellphones, tablets and jewellery.

A firearm with all necessary documentation was kept in the safe.

Van Zyl has been staying with his grandparents since he was three-years-old.

He attended New Hope school and later went to Pathways where he met Helen.

Helen (42) is on the autism spectrum.

They got married in 2014.

“I am urgently looking for a job. I have no income. The only person who gets an income in the household, is my grandmother.”

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