Elderly resident’s murder leaves community in shock
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GRAAFF-REINET — The close-knit community of Graaff-reinet is in shock this week after the callous and brutal murder of an elderly resident in the early hours of last Friday morning, September 29.
Conrad Spingies and his wife Patricia, who suffers from a degenerative illness and is blind, lived quietly at their home on the corner of Park Street and Cradock Street for many years. The couple moved to Graaff-reinet close to 40 years ago, after which Mr Spingies taught at the old Graaff-reinet Teacher Training College, passing on his love of English to many young people.
In more recent years, he would often be seen on the streets of Graaff-reinet, pushing his wife in her wheelchair, and greeting their friends. He was also a talented musician and was the regular organist at the Catholic Church in Graaff-reinet for over 30 years.
This peaceful retirement in a quiet country town was shattered last Friday.
According to the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Patrick Samson, Mrs Spingies’ caregiver arrived at the house as usual at 09:00 on Friday morning.
When nobody answered the door, she peered through the windows and immediately realised that something was wrong, as there were no breakfast dishes on the table, and the phone was off the hook. She ran to a neighbour, who called the police.
When the police arrived, they found that a window pane had been broken in the kitchen. It appeared that the intruder or intruders had entered the house while the couple was sleeping, probably in the early hours of the morning. Thursday 5 October, 2017 Mr Spingies’ body was found on the floor of the bedroom, in a pool of blood. It later transpired that he had numerous stab wounds to his body.
Mrs Spingies thankfully was not injured physically but was taken to Midland Hospital by ambulance, where she was treated for shock and admitted. She has since been discharged from hospital and is in care, where she can rest and not be disturbed.
Two of the Spingies’ daughters, with some of their families, travelled to Graaff-reinet as soon as possible to be with their mother. One of the daughters, unfortunately, cannot be here at this time due to an illness.
They have been staying at the home of family friends, and have been deeply comforted by the show of support from the local community, including many complete strangers. Meals and flowers have been dropped off at their temporary home, and a friend posted on Facebook that “they have felt so blessed and so grateful, and certainly feel the love and support they are receiving from everyone in the community”.
The instant communication of social media and emails has however been a cause of some unnecessary grief for the family, as unsubstantiated rumours have been posted and printed without thought to the devastating effect this has had on family and friends who are far from the scene and have picked up this “unofficial” news online.
Despite constant assurances from the police and close family friends that Mrs Spingies was not harmed in the attack, many harrowing tales were recounted of her “injuries” and even that she had passed away.
An update on the investigation into Mr Spingies’ murder was given to the Graaff-reinet Advertiser on Wednesday morning, October 4. It appears at this stage that only some cash may have been taken from the residence, although this has not yet been finalised.
The police are actively following up on several leads and, according to the investigating officer, they hope to have more information available early next week.
Anyone with information that may be relevant to the case is asked to contact W/O Samson urgently on 073 084 9067.
In a statement issued on behalf of the family, daughter Gisela wrote “We are grateful for the sympathy expressed from all over South Africa and beyond. There is no doubt that our father touched a great many lives. We ask that the media and the public give our family the privacy to allow the investigation to proceed and time to grieve in private”.
A memorial mass will be held for Conrad Spingies at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Tuesday, October 10, at 11:00.
With the help of their attorneys, his daughters have set up a trust account for the ongoing care of their mother, Pat. They have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made towards her care. The account is Derek Light Attorneys at FNB, 12 Church Street, Graaff-reinet, branch code 210216. The account number is 52300015065 (swift code FIRNZAJJ), with reference S722 essential.
He was dearly loved and will be sorely missed by his wife Pat, daughters Grania, Gunda and Gisela, and grandchildren, as well as his friends.
The police cordoned off the house on Friday morning.