An 86-year-old nun was reportedly gang-raped before being murdered in her bedroom at a South African missionary.
Gertrud Tiefenbacher’s hands had been tied with a typewriter cord and a towel placed over her face, say local police.
Her body was found by other nuns at the Sacred Heart Missionary in Ixopo, a small town 85 miles south-west of Durban
Police in KwaZulu-Natal are waiting for the results of forensic tests to confirm that Sister Gertrud was sexually assaulted.
They say she was suffocated but they are unsure how many men attacked her. A small sum of money – thought to be in euros – had been stolen from her room.
The victim’s friend Betty Firmstone, 85, told South Africa’s Daily News ‘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.
‘This really was an act of savagery against a gentle, caring soul.’
Sister Gertrud had lived at the missionary for 60 years after moving to South Africa from her native Austria.
Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said there were no signs of forced entry into the room – and the number of intruders was ‘unclear’.
‘It is alleged that the victim was at her residence when she was approached by a suspect who allegedly tied her hands with a typewriter cord,’ he added.
‘She was also covered with a towel over her face, causing the victim to suffocate. Rape is also suspected in this matter.
‘We are following all leads. We are also appealing to the community to come forward with any information.’
The attack at the weekend is the first to be reported at the mission, which opened in 1923 for nuns wanting to serve the local community. It is also a home for young women who are considering becoming nuns.