A 38-year-old Cape Town woman is fighting for her life in hospital after apparently being gang-raped after responding to an advert on the popular classifieds site Gumtree, offering casual employment for stocktakers.
The woman said she was attacked just over two weeks ago, and managed to tell her friends and neighbour what happened before having a seizure and being admitted to ICU. She is still in a confused state, on a ventilator and is unable to speak to the media.
But a close friend and colleague said the woman, who lives in Claremont, had responded to the advert by phone. She was told that transport had been arranged to ferry the stocktakers from a meeting point to the Pick n Pay store in Observatory, where they would work the night shift.
The friend told the Cape Times: “She was unemployed, but she phoned me to say she had at least found casual work to do some stocktaking. She was told to be there by 8.30pm, but the earlier she arrived the better.” She arrived at 7pm on a Sunday. She joined a group of other passengers, who she assumed were job seekers, on a minibus that drove to the Observatory store.
“She got off the bus,” the friend said, “but was told to get back on as it was so cold.
“One of the men said he would check if there were still places for more stocktakers, but later returned and said the positions were all taken and that those on the bus could have complimentary tea, coffee and juice for their efforts.”
The woman told her friend she drank some of the juice and began to feel very sick.
The last thing she remembered was being hit over the head, but she could not recall any other details.
In the early hours of the following morning, she woke up on a stretch of grass in Table View with all her belongings missing, apart from her cellphone. According to her friend, she then called a taxi driver friend who took her home.
Her neighbour told the Cape Times that he had been awoken by the sound of the woman trying to break down her front door at 3am. “She was in shock and I noticed that her pants were torn,” he said. “I then took her to the trauma section at Groote Schuur where she was examined by a doctor. She was then transferred to the gynaecology department and was given a course of anti-retroviral therapy.”
She told her neighbour later that semen from four men had been found in her body, and another friend was then called to take care of her.
The second friend told the Cape Times that the woman remembered nothing after she was hit over the head.
“From what we have been able to piece together, it sounds like she was out cold for approximately five hours.”
The following day, while in the care of her friend, she had a seizure and was taken back to hospital. After another bad seizure she was taken to ICU at Karl Bremer Hospital in Bellville. The friend said: “A catscan was done to see if there was any internal injury from the blow to the head, and it was negative, but there was suspicion that a blood clot could have affected her on her first day of standing up after the attack.”
Karl Bremer Hospital confirmed that the woman had been in their care, but had since been moved to ICU at Tygerberg Hospital for an MRI.
Tygerberg Hospital could not provide details, but confirmed that she had been admitted there on Monday.
The friend, who visited the woman at Tygerberg this week, said: “There doesn’t seem to be brain damage, but she is confused and they are monitoring her. Her only living relative is her mom, who lives in the Eastern Cape, so I am the closest thing she has to family in Cape Town.”
Pick n Pay, meanwhile, has distanced itself from the online posting and has cautioned other job seekers against being lured by false adverts. The retail giant’s marketing From Page 1 and sustainability director, Bronwen Rohland, said: “Pick n Pay does not advertise any positions on Gumtree and views false advertising of employment positions within the company very seriously.
“We strongly urge individuals to be cautious and check the credentials of companies advertising employment opportunities.”
She said the Observatory Pick n Pay did have a stock-take on August 22 (the morning after the attack), but that “the store and the staff complement was booked one month in advance of this stocktake procedure”.
She said Pick n Pay would value any additional information about the advertisement in question.
This week there was no sign of the advert on Gumtree, and queries to the online advertising site had not been answered by the time of going to press.
According to Gumtree’s policy, a condition of use of the site is that the user agrees not to violate any laws, or be false or misleading in their adverts. The site states, however, that it cannot be held liable for the actions of any users who do violate those conditions. It says the Gumtree team “works with local and international law enforcement agencies to help keep the site free from scams and other illegal activities”.
Her neighbour said she had sent him an SMS after he helped her, saying she would report the crime at the Claremont police station.
However, personnel at the station as well as those at the Woodstock police station, situated closest to the alleged crime scene, say they haveno record of a report of that nature