When killers knock on your door...

Fears are rife among Pretoria home sellers and estate agents that robbers may be posing as home buyers. This follows the murder of a Pretoria pre-school principal, by men posing as potential buyers.

Rinda Abraham, whose family was in the process of selling their Waterkloof Ridge house, was gunned down in her home during the early hours of Sunday when her family was attacked by three gunmen.

Her murder comes a month after a Pretoria domestic worker and her employer's son, who were selling their Die Wilgers home privately, were attacked by gunmen also posing as potential buyers.

Abraham was shot in the heart when her son Reggie came running to help her as she was being forced down the passage to her bedroom. The killers fled with only a cellphone.

Brooklyn detectives on Tuesday arrested five people, including a woman, in the East Rand in connection with the murder.

While police are remaining tight-lipped about the gang's modus operandi it is understood that they would specifically target houses for sale, with the woman and one of the men posing as potential buyers.

Abraham's family believe that the gunmen had prior knowledge of the house's security systems, valuables and access and escape routes.

Abraham's son Eric said, after listening to what police had told them on the night of the murder, he believed that their mother's killers had prior knowledge of their house.

"They knew exactly which neighbour's wall to climb over, exactly which doors to come through and where everything in the house was and what to ask for," he said.

He said on Saturday several "potential buyers" had come to the house while the family was out and had been let in by their domestic worker, who may have been conned into believing that they were interested in buying the house.

Abraham said he feared that what happened to his family could happen to others.

Marietjie Prinsloo, of Marietjie Prinsloo Properties in Pretoria, said there was a very real risk of such attacks happening especially to private sellers.

"Last month a domestic worker and her employer's child were attacked in the family's Die Wilgers home, which was being sold privately, by criminals posing as buyers.

"These types of crimes are difficult to stop and it is advisable that sellers use estate agents who can act as buffers and determine whether someone is a genuine buyer or not."

Institute of Estate Agents South Africa president Dr Willie Marais said the sale of house made it easy for criminals to gain access to houses and attack owners and estate agents.

He said last year a Pretoria estate agent was shot by "buyers" when she was attacked and robbed at a show house in Pretoria North.

"The institute has on many occasions expressed concern about the safety of people selling their homes either privately or through open mandate."

Open mandate is when several estate agencies are involved in the sale of a house.

Marais said: "Criminals posing as buyers have an opportunity of gaining access to a house, seeing exactly where the valuables are, what security measures are in place and where the access and escape routes are, making estate agents and home sellers soft targets.

"While some distract estate agents, others will enter the house and hold them and the sellers up, robbing everyone," said Marais.

He said owners who sold their homes privately faced the biggest risk because they did not have the skills and knowledge to screen potential buyers from bogus ones.

Marais said while the risk to estate agents was slightly less, many were now working in pairs as a safety precaution.

SA Hometraders sales head Charles Scott said they had noticed that sellers were becoming more careful about having show houses because of the potential threat.

SA Hometraders is a website that lists houses for sale across South Africa.

Scott said the big fear among estate agents was that they were no longer able to be on their own at show house and were having to work in pairs

"This kind of threat has definitely been lurking for sometime," he said.

Police spokesperson Captain Prince Mokhabela said the five would appear in Pretoria magistrate's court today on murder and armed robbery charges.

He said police seized two guns and ammunition from the five, two of whom were Mozambican nationals.

Mokhabela declined to comment on the gang's modus operandi "as the investigation is at a very sensitive stage".

"We are currently investigating whether the gang can be linked to other such crimes," he said.

Abraham is to be buried on Friday at the Lede In Christus Church in Jean Avenue, Centurion, at noon.

  • This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on January 30, 2008

Articlre by: Graeme Hosken - www.iol.co.za