She was walking to the Eikefontein train station in the dark of dawn, just after 5am on Thursday September 1. Minutes from the Haven Night Shelter in Eikendal, where she had been staying for the past year, Denise Nel, 52, screamed as she was attacked. She died from a stab wound to the chest.
Her killer took her cellphone.
According to Gavin Riddles, chairman of the Community Law and Order Foundation and community safety ambassador, residents at the Kraaifontein Night Shelter in Van der Ross Street had heard Ms Nel’s screams, but by the time they reached her there was nothing they could do.
“The incident was very close to the shelter, not even 30 metres away. The woman had left the shelter, where she had lived for the last year, at 5 in the morning to catch a train to her job as an EPWP (The City’s Expanded Public Works Programme) worker,” said Mr Riddles.
He was on the scene shortly after Ms Nel was killed. “The area is a crime hot spot, and this was the second robbery in two days. Criminals make use of this area as it’s a gateway to the train station and offers an easy escape.
“As with all acts of crime, we condemn this murder. Two years ago there was a murder in the same spot,” said Mr Riddles.
Hassan Khan, of The Haven Night Shelter organisation, said, “We really regret this terrible incident and the loss of our client.
“The woman left the shelter at 5am on her way to catch the train and wasn’t even two minutes away from the shelter when she was assaulted.
“She had been at the shelter for more than a year and had a sister in Stellenbosch.”
He added, “My heart really goes out to her and her family. Here are people trying to get themselves up and running, and work and this is what happens.”
He said social workers from The Haven were offering bereavement counselling not only to the family but to residents at the shelter and were helping with funeral arrangements.
“For the people at the shelter who shared space with her it’s important for them to work through this as they are now traumatised,” he said.
Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk of the Kraaifontein SAPS said the police were investigating Ms Nel’s death.
Mr Riddles said the incident also triggered fear among workers using the road as a shortcut to the train station and workplace. “It is time for action against these kind of incidents. I urge the community to unite and form street committees to curb robberies in their areas.
“We will work hand in hand with SAPS, neighbourhood watches and private security companies to come up with a crime prevention strategy,” he said, hot on the heels of having just attended the two-day Policing Needs and Priorities Summit for the Tygerberg Cluster.