May 26 2010 at 07:59AM
By Graeme Hosken
Moments after buying a set of nuts and bolts from a hardware store, an elderly Pretoria pensioner was gunned down by a teenager and his accomplice in a botched hijacking.
Killian van Tonder, 75, was shot dead as he tried to fight off his killers. They struck as he was about to get into his white Nissan 1400 bakkie in West Park yesterday.
Car guards and shop owners, who heard Van Tonder scream for help as his killers shot him, rushed to his rescue.
As several people tried to stop Van Tonder, a former Iskor crane driver, from bleeding to death, others, including car guard George Waldeck and hardware store owner Nick Coetzee, chased after the gunmen.
Cornering the suspects in an outside toilet of a nearby house where they were hiding, community members punched and beat them.
Police were forced to rescue the pair, as their assailants refused to stop their assault.
Searching the toilet, police recovered an unlicensed 9mm pistol the suspects had allegedly hidden inside the cistern.
As Van Tonder’s hysterical family begged for the killers to be shot, his son, Hennie, collapsed in front of his father’s body. Stunned businessmen and shoppers gathered and watched as police searched for clues.
Waldeck said the shooting had happened within seconds.
“I was helping a customer when I heard the gunshots. At first I thought it was crackers, but when I heard the screams I knew something bad was happening. When I looked down the road I saw two people trying to pull an old man from his car before running away.
“That was when I gave chase. I did not know that they had shot the man, but I was not going to let them get away. Dozens of us gave chase. We were all so angry,” he said.
Waldeck said he was haunted by Van Tonder’s screams.
“I can still hear him in my head begging and screaming for help. It was so scary. I can’t understand why they did this. The man had no chance against them. He was old and they were so big. He would not have hurt them,” he said.
“I can’t believe it. He was standing right here talking to me. One moment I am having a conversation with him and the next he is dead,” said an emotional Coetzee, who described Van Tonder as regular customer who came into the shop three times a week for a talk.
Coetzee said he was standing behind the counter when he heard Van Tonder scream.
“As I looked up I saw him looking straight at me. He looked terrified. The two gunmen were standing next to him when his body lifted up twice and then he collapsed.
“When I heard those shots I just grabbed my gun and ran to help. There is no way that you cannot help someone. It does not matter who they are.
“When you hear those screams and see that look of fear you have to help,” Coetzee said, recalling how the gunmen shot at him as he opened fire on them as they fled.
Van Tonder’s former colleague, Hennie Geldenhuys, who was inside the hardware store when Van Tonder bought his goods, said he could not believe what had happened.
“It doesn’t make sense. The last time I saw him was a year ago, so we were having a good conversation.
“We were telling each other what we were doing with our lives, where we were living and that we should see each other more often. I was thinking how great it was to catch up with him. Then this happened.”
Police spokeswoman Captain Tessa Jansen confirmed that a 16-year-old boy and 21-year-old man had been arrested for the attack.
“The two will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm,” she said.
Van Tonder’s son, Killian jnr, said the family was too distressed to talk. “We do not know what to say. It is just too much for us,” he said.
This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on May 26, 2010