Westbury: A place where killing is normal

Residents bury a victim of gang wars every weekend

07 October 2018 - 00:04 By GRAEME HOSKEN and POLOKO TAU

Eldred Fredericks sits nervously on an empty crate, brushing tile and cement dust from his face.
At 73, the builder has seen drug dealers painfully kill off Westbury, west of Johannesburg. In March his son Selwyn, 37, was shot dead blocks away from the family's tiny flat.
"It's something you never get over, helplessly watching your son bleed to death."
Fredericks's house is close to the outdoor passageway where Westbury mother Heather Petersen was shot dead last week. She was caught in a shoot-out between rival drug pedlars.
For Westbury residents, Petersen's killing was the final straw. Hundreds vented their anger in violent protests this week. Police minister Bheki Cele visited the scene.
On the day she died, Petersen kissed her husband Reuben goodbye. When he saw her again, she lay dead in the street, just 60m from their home.
"I could not even get close to hold her . it was a crime scene, I was told. I stood by and waited for about three hours before her body was removed," said Reuben Petersen.
Heather had accompanied her 10-year-old niece to fetch a school report. On their way home they were caught in crossfire. Heather was killed and the niece slightly wounded in a leg.
Petersen said he never thought much about the sound of gunshots "until you lose a loved one".

"It is then that you start asking yourself: what are you doing in such an environment? But it's life in Westbury and we have nowhere else to go," he said.
The street where his wife died is the frontline in battles between drug gangs.
Pastor Collins Andrews was killed in October last year while sitting outside the front door of his house which borders the passage where Petersen was shot. In 2016 he had survived a bullet wound and was due to testify within days about that incident.
Fredericks said he was terrified every time his children and grandchildren went out. "Just last week a father-of-three was killed as he got off a bus ... from work.
"I just never know if [the children] will make it back home alive. We escort our grandchildren to school, or friends give them lifts."..

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

X