Nun, 86, Murdered in KZN Convent

Sherlissa Peters, IOL News, April 21, 2015

An 86-year-old nun who had worked in Ixopo for 60 years has been raped and murdered in her bedroom.

Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher’s body was found by a fellow sister at the Sacred Heart Home in Ixopo.

The nun, an Austrian immigrant, had been gagged and bound with a cord from an electric typewriter.

Police have launched a manhunt for a group of men who are believed to have broken into the convent at the weekend.

According to Sister Gerald, another nun at the mission, the octogenarian had dedicated her life to uplifting the community. She was especially fond of her work with impoverished children.

“She had a very kind heart and was loved by everyone.”

An emotional Betty Firmstone, 85, a close friend of Sister Gertrud, told the Daily News on Monday night that she was shocked to hear of the murder.

“I met sister in 1952, when I started teaching at a school attached to the mission. We worked very closely together. She loved her work with children.”

She said she could not comprehend how people could commit such atrocious acts against an elderly woman of God, who posed no threat to anyone, and who did not covet worldly possessions.

“This really was an act of savagery against a gentle, caring soul.”

However, Firmstone said that the victim was now safe in the arms of God, whom she had served faithfully for the greater part of her life.

Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane confirmed that the nun was found on Sunday morning.

She was alone in her room when the robbers struck‚ and they had tied her up and robbed her of a small amount of cash, he said.

“Rape is also suspected in this matter. The victim was found tied with a typewriter cord. She was also gagged‚” Zwane said.

Police were combing the area for the suspects‚ who are facing charges of rape‚ robbery and murder.

“We are following all leads. We are also appealing to the community to come forward with any information that will help us solve this case,” Zwane said.

The Sacred Heart Home in Ixopo has a long history. It opened its doors to nuns who had come to offer their missionary service to the community in 1923.

Although a community with many elderly women, the nuns are active and involved in many forms of service, including educational ministry at Little Flower School and pastoral care at the Christ the King Hospital.

Sacred Heart Home also serves as a formation house for young women aspiring to join the congregation.

The victim was also part of the Educational Outreach Programme that has served children and adolescents from disadvantaged families for more than 12 years.

This is the first incident of this nature in the mission’s 92-year history.

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