/ 3 June 2024

Durban woman murdered in alleged Islamophobic attack

(Cornel van Heerden/Gallo)
South Africa’s Jewish and Muslim communities have condemned the killing of Halima Hoosen-Preston and the knife assault on her family at their home in Durban, in what appears to be an Islamophobic attack. (Cornel van Heerden/Gallo)

South Africa’s Jewish and Muslim communities have condemned the killing of Halima Hoosen-Preston and the knife assault on her family at their home in Durban, in what appears to be an Islamophobic attack, on Sunday.

Umbilo police have arrested a man in connection with Hoosen-Preston’s murder, and the attempted killing of her husband and son, at their home in Glenmore, KwaZulu-Natal, spokesperson Robert Netshiunda said. The man, who is believed to be the son of a prominent South African businessman, also allegedly threatened to rape her 10-year-old daughter.

“Police responded to reports of a stabbing and, upon arrival at the crime scene, a man was found in possession of a blood-stained knife. A woman was lying on the floor bleeding, so were two men who also had stab wounds. The woman was declared dead at the scene and the two injured victims were rushed to a nearby hospital,” Netshiunda said.

“The motive of the violence is unknown, although a 10-year-old survivor has told the police that the suspect stated that he was stabbing them because they supported Palestine. The man also allegedly threatened to rape the little girl. Police investigations continue.”

A source told the Mail & Guardian that the suspect was taken to a local hospital’s psychiatric facility.

ALS Paramedics spokesperson Garrith Jamieson said its personnel arrived at a “horrific scene” at the house.

“A family had been attacked inside their house by an alleged suspect. Paramedics found three patients with multiple stabbing wounds. Immediately more ambulances and advanced life support paramedics were dispatched to assist,” Jamieson said.

“Once triaged paramedics found that a female believed to be in her forties had sustained multiple fatal stab wounds to her body and there was nothing paramedics could do for her, and she was declared deceased on the scene.”

He said Hoosen-Preston’s husband and son were found with multiple stab wounds to their body, adding: “Both were in a critical condition and required multiple advanced life-support techniques to stabilise them on the scene before they were rushed to a nearby hospital for the urgent care that they required.”

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A viral video has circulated showing the man confess to the murder of Halima Hoosen-Preston.

According to a source close to the investigation, the suspect, in his late thirties, whose identity is known to the M&G, forced his way into Hoosen-Preston’s home at about 2am.

“There was a report circulated on local groups of a domestic disturbance in the area. There was a lot of shouting and screaming going on,” he said, adding that it appeared the suspect had “an issue with the family” following an earlier argument about his relatives who had been killed in Israel.

In a video circulating on social media, apparently filmed at a local hospital, the suspect is seen talking to an unidentified man who asks him about his motive for the attack. He asks whether it was because Hoosen-Preston had laughed when she heard his cousins had been killed in Israel.

The man asking him questions states: “You attacked a 19-year-old child … you went for him and attacked him first and then the father came to help and … then 15 times you poked the father.”

In the video, the suspect asks the man whether the teenager and his father were still alive. He adds that Hoosen-Preston “hates my family” and that “she and her family thought that it was entertaining that my cousins were killed in Israel … she thought that was funny”.

The man says he is not a Jew by identity, but has family in Israel, and was a Zionist “once upon a time”.

“I have rejected the religion completely,” he says.

South African Jewish Board of Deputies president Karen Milner said the board was “outraged” by the killing of Hoosen-Preston and the attack on her family. 

“This is a tragic event and our hearts and prayers go out to the affected family. We ask that this matter be investigated thoroughly by the judicial system and that the investigations and legal processes be allowed to take their course,” Milner said.

“In this highly charged environment, we call for calm from all communities so that justice can prevail.”

South African Muslim Network representative Faisal Suliman said the organisation “condemns with contempt and disgust” the attack on the family.

“This heinous and cowardly attack was ostensibly perpetrated by a known Zionist acting against a family with pro-Palestinian views,” Suliman said in a statement on Monday.

“This attack unless strongly condemned by the supporters and friends of Israel in South Africa has the potential to result in a tit-for-tat response that will no doubt be used by the Zionists to cry foul and roll out the usual tropes about anti-Semitism, to further justify the genocide of Palestinians and support for Israel.”

Suliman called for calm and cool heads.

“Our anger must be directed toward support for the family, peaceful support at court appearances of the perpetrator, ensuring this case gets the full attention and resources of the SAPS [South African Police Service] and NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] and increasing our activities toward support for the freedom of the Palestinian people,” he said.

“We demand the state treat this as a hate crime and we call for a dedicated [police] unit to investigate and prosecute incidents of Islamophobia with the seriousness it deserves.”
He also called for the South African Human Rights Commission and the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission to intervene in the matter.