How a peaceful hike ended in death on a mountain

30 January 2018 - 15:16 By Petru Saal
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Douglas Notten
Douglas Notten
Image: Douglas Notten/Facebook

Douglas Notten and his wife Julia were about to stop and share some coffee when a man approached from behind on the hiking trail above Kalk Bay.

They stepped aside politely. Seconds later the 57-year-old pilot had been stabbed. Julia was fighting for her life.

The attack at Echo Valley by a knife-wielding man in the Table Mountain National Park on Sunday ended tragically – robbing a family of a man they described as an absolute gentleman.

Brother-in law and good friend Stephen Voget described the attack and the devastating void left behind on Tuesday.

The couple were enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning walk up Echo Valley.

“They crested the peak above the area known as the Amphitheatre and were en route down the northern side‚ heading in a northerly direction‚ planning to find a potential spot to have a cup of coffee which they were carrying in a basic rucksack‚” he said.

“That is all they were carrying: no jewellery‚ cameras‚ car keys nor other shiny things. A man approached from behind walking faster than them on the same path. They stepped aside politely‚ as one does‚ to let him pass.

“As the strongly built dark-skinned man passed Douglas he became aggressive and belligerent and jostled Doug‚ who stood his ground. Julia‚ ahead of them‚ then saw the assailant quickly draw a knife and stab Doug who was immediately felled‚ but was attempting to fight back and protect Julia‚” he said.

Julia pepper-sprayed the assailant‚ which caused him to back down‚ giving Douglas an opportunity to tell Julia to run away. Their attacker ran after her‚ throwing rocks. “She escaped him and looked back to see him return to her badly bleeding husband and then fanatically and repeatedly stabbed him‚” he said.

Voget said that Julia had found other walkers and runners over the hill who came to her aid. By the time paramedics arrived‚ Douglas had already succumbed to his wounds.

“His wife and three young‚ adult children are in a state of disbelief and shocked sadness‚ which is appropriate and normal. They are receiving enormous support from the extended family and the community‚” said Voget.

It was the first time that the couple had encountered trouble while walking. Voget said they often hiked and were reasonably strong and fit. They enjoyed swimming in the Silvermine Dam and had hiked up many of the Southern Peninsula mountains.

Notten was described as being a gentleman‚ polite with a zany yet clever sense of humour.

He is survived by his wife and three children. “He gave them absolute freedom and he trusted them‚ and yet instilled the best moral and ethical values in them. They idolised him. He was quietly proud of them‚” said Voget.

Voget said his brother-in-law took extreme pride in his fitness and job as a pilot. “He was good with his hands and built half of his house himself. He worked on his car himself‚ and loved the cars that he drove and the aircraft he flew for many tens of thousands of hours.

“In his working life he had flown both the rescue helicopter and the police aircraft that were involved in his attempted rescue‚” he said.

Now the family has to come to terms with losing someone whose “absence will leave a big black void in all of our lives”.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said the attacker had not yet been apprehended. “The case is being investigated as a priority‚ however‚ no suspects have been identified or apprehended as yet. Resources are deployed on a daily basis to provide safety and security to people visiting the area‚ and to search for possible suspects.”

Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism on Tuesday condemned the attacks on tourists and hikers on the Table Mountain range‚ raising concerns that they would affect tourism‚ a major driver of the economy in Cape Town.

“We call on crime prevention authorities to be vigilant and to work closely with communities in crime hot spots to enable both local and overseas tourists to enjoy the various tourist destinations without fear of becoming victims of crime‚” said committee chairperson Beatrice Ngcobo.

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