A Constantia priest was brutally attacked after Sunday service and left for dead, locked in the church’s strongroom – and was only found on Monday morning when the church secretary arrived for work.
The attackers tried to gouge out the eyes of Father Andrew Cox, 50, and tried to break his fingers before dumping him, bleeding and dazed, in the storeroom which they locked from the outside.
But Father Andrew, of the Constantia Catholic Church, said he has already forgiven his assailants.
Cox who lives on the church property, said he heard a noise and before he knew it three people came from behind some bushes and attacked him.
Cox told the Cape Argus on Tuesday morning that the three attackers were wearing balaclavas so he couldn’t identify them. “It was dark and I couldn’t see. All I saw was a knife glinting in the moonlight.”
He said the attack happened around 7.30pm and lasted about 30 minutes. “They tried to gouge my eyes out, stuffed plastic in my mouth and they also tried to break my fingers. At one point I managed to get the knife away from them but I couldn’t bring myself to stab them.”
He said they tied him up and dragged him inside the church before they made off with R3 500 of the church’s money.
Cox said he believed it was two men and a woman that attacked him. “If they were all men then one of them, his voice hadn’t broken yet.”
He said he didn’t realise at the time that they had stabbed him in his upper left thigh and his back.
Inside the church’s storeroom, Cox lay on the concrete floor on top of his South African flag as well as the Springbok flag.
“During the night I realised that the bleeding hadn’t stopped and I spent the night praying.”
He was rescued by the church secretary when she came in at 8am on Monday morning.
Cox said he had air to breathe in the strongroom because he had asked for air vents to be put in when they built it five years ago, just in case an incident like this happened.
It was not the first robbery at the church.
“Last year we had three robberies in one week while I was away on holiday. The year before that people made off with R60 000 that was stolen after a church fund-raiser.”
The attack has been met with dismay by the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town, Stephen Brislin.
“It’s absolutely terrible,” he told the Cape Argus on Tuesday.
“I have spoken to him. (Cox) He was obviously quite shaken, but he said he had spent the night praying, and that he forgives them.
“A priest would never fight back – and he’s one of the gentlest and kindest people I know,” the archbishop said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut confirmed the attack on Cox.
He said that no one had been arrested.
Traut asked if anyone had information they should contact the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Brown at 021 710 7335/47.