‘I wanted to move Mom’ - Daughter of murdered elderly

The family of the elderly woman who was murdered at a retirement complex in the city on Tuesday morning wanted to move her out of the centre, but were assured by the management she would be safe there.

Patricia Tugwell (89) was found with her throat slit in her second-floor room at Jacaranda Lodge in Pietermaritz Street.

It was the second murder at the complex.

Roland Heathcote (89) was murdered — stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors — on July 21.

Ten days before that, Patricia O’Connor was murdered at the Kenwyn Retirement Home, which is next door to Jacaranda Lodge. O’Connor was strangled by an intruder who had apparently climbed over a high wall and into the property.

Speaking to The Witness on Wednesday, Tugwell’s visibly shaken daughter, Janine de Waal (Barkhuizen), said after the first murder at the complex, the family had deliberated moving her mother.

“The biggest issue was I wanted her to come and stay with me until security measures were upgraded at the lodge, but management assured me that she would be safe. They said there was extra security walking around at night and she would be safe.

“I was busy getting quotes to install a Trellidor and debating with Jacaranda on who was going to pay for it. Someone had tried to break into her flat when the first resident was killed on the third floor.”

De Waal said there were fingerprints on Tugwell’s window and someone had tried to force it open.

“Obviously the perpetrator had a torch and they could see through the window that she had some nice stuff and he decided to come back.”

She said that the murderer had taken among other things her mother’s cellphone, jewellery and handbags with her identification, including bank cards.

De Waal said her worst fears came true when a nurse at the facility called her on Tuesday morning to inform the family about the tragedy.

“When I heard her voice … I said ‘what has happened?’.

“I knew straight away that something terrible had happened because she never phones me. When she said to me it was an invasion I broke down and gave the phone to my husband.”

She said her mother and the other residents had been living in fear following the first two murders.

“She was locking herself in her bedroom from 7 pm every night because she was living in fear.

“When the nurses went to investigate, the bedroom door was not locked so we assume she heard the glass break and opened the door to see what was going on.”

She said Tugwell was born in Eshowe but lived in Durban where she had worked as a credit controller at Fidelity Guards for 20 years before retiring in 1998.

Tugwell moved into Jacaranda Lodge in 2013. “It took a lot of persuading for her to move to Pietermaritzburg. She eventually moved from her flat in Durban into what I thought was a safe place … where she would be taken good care of.

“She was my all. I will miss everything about her. Her daily calls at 9 am, our outings together and just her love. She had the softest heart and she was very generous,” said De Waal, sobbing.

Tugwell’s granddaughter, Jackie Mitchell, said: “She was very thoughtful. She always made an effort to make everyone feel special. I wish I had lived closer to her and seen her more.”

Mitchell added that her grandmother was very “prim and proper”.

“When she left the house she always dressed to the nines. She had her hair done once a week, everything had to be perfect. Her car was not allowed to have one speck of dust on it.”