British survivor who saw sister-in-law was shot dead by 'white-hating' gang hugs wife at her funeral
Retired David Thomas, 67, and wife Brenda, 61, were treating her sister Heila Kilian, 63, to a barbecue at their remote South African farmstead when five armed men jumped them.
Churchgoing mum-of-four Heila was shot through the heart from behind and died instantly as their attackers wearing balaclavas and orange boiler suits bundled the survivors to the ground.
Former engineer David from Effingham, Surrey and ex-school teacher Brenda were savagely beaten along with their close friend Shaun Vorster, 51.
Divorced dad-of-two David had his head repeatedly smashed against a wall by the gang who allegedly told him they “hated whites”— and he was trussed up like a turkey so he couldn’t resist.
They threatened him and Shaun with death for over an hour putting guns and knives to their heads as they tortured and tormented them until finally one agreed to open a hidden safe.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun Online ahead of the cremation service, Brenda told how she watched the cowards gate-crash their braai – South African for BBQ – and shoot Heila in the back at point blank rage.
The murder at a smallholding in Stilbaai four hours from Cape Town has shocked the nation and once more infuriated the farming community who feel under siege.
But yesterday Brenda insisted that the congregation did not have revenge in mind but came together to share their bond of love.
Over 700 people packed out the AGS Lofoord Church in Springs near Johannesburg in the town where she and her retired police Colonel husband Hein, 74, had brought up their family.
Devestated former riot police commander Hein and their sons Eugene, 45, Anton, 44, Zane, 37, and daughter Marika, 43, carried the coffin into church with Heila’s grandson Heine, 17.
On the way out Marika allowed her sister-in-law Nicolene Kilian to take her place carrying the coffin.
Son Zane had had the sides of his head shaved and had a heart tattooed on one side with MOM and the date of her murder 16.4.2018 surrounded by her favourite roses and butterflies.
He described Heila as “the most loving and special mom ever”.
During the service devout Christians David and Brenda stepped to the front of the church and with David on keyboards and Brenda singing performed one of Heila’s favourite songs.
It was a gospel song I Know Who Holds Tomorrow that their mother Joan used to sing to them as children.
Emotional Brenda then told of the moment her peaceful gathering turned into a nightmare as masked raiders launched their attack.
She said: “David had gone to get his guitar and was playing it and we were sitting next to each other on chairs listening to him sing and taking in the beautiful African night under the stars.
“Then I suddenly saw five men appear and realised I was in a nightmare as they marched towards us in a line and my sister had her back to them and had no idea they were there.
“One man lifted a long barrelled pistol and I remember thinking: “God this can’t be true”.
“He walked up behind Heila and aimed the gun at her back and shot her through the heart. It was not a wild shot. It was an aimed shot. There is no doubt he meant to kill her.
“She was dead on impact with the bullet and if there can be a blessing it was that she did not see death coming for her and had no idea she was about to be taken from us."
Brenda added: “The men began attacking David and Shaun and it was like logic was suddenly kicking in and I knew I could not help my sister but I could now only try to help my husband and friend.
“I thought these men were killing them both and just carried on praying to God and then I heard footsteps behind me and knew I could not run away but carried on playing dead.
“As I lay there I could see my sister with her beautiful green eyes closed and I remember noticing her blue nail polish and even though she was dead she looked so beautiful.
“This man then put a knife under my throat and said he was going to kill me but I suddenly felt powerful and I just shouted at him: 'Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ'.
“I remember seeing his eyes behind his balaclava open wide and he pulled the knife away from my throat and I shouted at him: 'Go ahead kill me but you will never kill my soul.'
"I could see he feared the religious words and he then tried to strangle me and put his hands tightly round my throat but I didn’t fight him and just stared at him straight in the eyes.
“I croaked at him: 'Kill me but with my last breath I will praise my God'.
“That freaked him and he let me go and then got some white electrical cord and tied me up so tightly that he dislocated my shoulder and then he robbed me of my rings and jewellery.
“They had no need to kill Heila but that is what they do in these farm murders. They make a statement. They want to terrorise."
Divorced mum-of-one Brenda said she forgives the men who attacked and killed her sister.
She said: “I do not want revenge as that will make me bitter but God will take his revenge when the time is right. I have no anger but I know their judgement day will come.
“When they are all caught and end up in a courtroom I will go along and look them all in the eyes again and I will watch as justice is done and they are sent to prison for life”.
Brit David does not believe in the death penalty but Brenda believes it should be brought back adding: “Prison is not a deterrent as they do not serve the terms they are given.
“They come back out very quickly and go on to rape and murder again. I believe in the death sentence”.
Four men have been arrested so far in connection with the murder of Heila and have appeared before magistrates at Mitchell’s Plain – a township on the outskirts of Cape Town 200 miles away.
David said: “I cannot thank the police enough for all they are doing or the family and friends and even total strangers who have given us all so much support to get through this.
“I want to move on and put a message of love out there as despite all the mindless violence in this world it is love that will win the day and we will move forward with purpose”.
Brenda divorced in 2004 and met divorcee David in Dubai where he was an engineer and she was teaching Art and in 2011 and fell in love and returned to England to marry in 2012.
Neither can face living in the remote farmstead which they had turned into a place for the local Christian community to visit to share their love of music and art with a coffee shop
The death of Heila beside the braai holds too many memories for them to ever live there again.
David said: “I feel that despite what has happened to us both there is a purpose in our life and God does things for a reason and in time we will know that purpose and follow our faith”.
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