In a coldly calculated countdown to his mother’s murder, Maurice Pirzenthal marked off the days on a calendar leading up to Mother’s Day – when he brutally stabbed her to death – and to what would have been her 78th birthday the next day.
While other children were celebrating Mother’s Day with their moms on Sunday, the 50-year-old Port Elizabeth man sat waiting calmly on a chair in their garden with a speargun for Barbara Sturdy, 77, to return from a night church service and then stabbed her to death.
He also stabbed his sister, Sandra Coetzee, 57, in the throat, before killing himself.
Coetzee is in a critical condition in hospital.
She had driven her mother back to the Kanarie Road, Cotswold, home that Sturdy shared with her son at about 8.30pm after church on Sunday, when they were attacked by Pirzenthal.
While a badly bleeding Coetzee managed to escape, Pirzenthal calmly walked up his driveway after the attack, climbed into his vehicle and gassed himself in his locked garage – just metres from where his mother’s body lay.
Extensive bloodstains marked the street outside where the attack took place and a clear trail of blood indicated the path in which Coetzee had fled.
The shocking incident ended a bitter, six-year feud, and court battle, between Pirzenthal and his mother over occupancy of the property, where Pirzenthal had operated what tenants yesterday described as a commune.
The lodgings were run under the auspices of Pirzenthal’s registered non-government organisation, Rags to Life Safe Haven.
Two of the tenants – who, along with the others, have until May 30 to vacate as a result of the family feud – sketched a terrifying picture yesterday of what they described as a premeditated attack on Sturdy.
This was reinforced by a lengthy, rambling, suicide note found on Pirzenthal’s cellphone and which was temporarily uploaded to Facebook.
The two tenants, who did not want to be named, said they had been well aware of the discord between the mother and son, which made headlines in The Herald on March 1 after a Port Elizabeth court ruled that Pirzenthal and his tenants must vacate the property by the end of this month.
This despite the fact that Pirzenthal was the legal owner of the property, which he had bought from Sturdy in 2012.
As part of the sale, however, Sturdy held a usufruct on the house – meaning she had the legal right to use and benefit from the property.
“He had been marking off the days until the 14th [yesterday] on his calendar in the house,” a woman tenant said.
“We saw it. He used to call her [his mother] ‘Satan’.
“Yesterday [Sunday], he told us that he was waiting for ‘Satan’ to come home.
“He then went to sit on a chair near the gate.
“He had some sort of gas gun on him and then we later saw that he was sitting next to one of those spearguns.
“It is quite clear that he planned this down to the minute.
“He had already hooked all that stuff up to his car in the garage and the car was running while he waited for his mother.”