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A land where farmers are four times more likely to be murdered than police officers

Jana Boshoff reports on the fear stalking rural South Africa as crime levels soar

It is a place of great beauty which has been shaken by the most terrible of crimes.

Dullstroom is a quaint fishing town situated in the highlands of Mpumalanga.

A popular tourist destination, it is known for its picturesque scenery, trout fishing and cosy pubs.

The town is 150 miles from Johannesburg and is seen as the gateway to the Lowveld and well-known attractions such as the Kruger National Park.

A quiet place during the week, Dullstroom becomes a hive of activity at weekends and during holidays, when tourists flock to the town.

It has become especially popular among expats from the United Kingdom, who say the cool weather and rolling hills remind them of home.

But a horrific farm attack and the death of one of its most popular residents has shaken the town and made international headlines.

Robert Lynn and his wife Susan Howarth co-owned the farm Marchlands, about four miles outside of town, with Allan and Claire Taylor.

Sue, who previously ran the Dullstroom Stables, kept two horses. Her close friend Claire has some sheep.

Both women were passionate about Border Collies and hosted the South African Sheep Dog Trials on the farm in recent years.

Sue adopted three rescued dogs from the Border Collie Rescue organisation, for which she was forever collecting money.

Last Sunday Sue and Robert were overpowered in their room. Both sustained gunshot wounds. The couple were tortured, bound and left for dead on the road, where they were discovered at daylight by two men on their way to do some fishing. Sue passed away in hospital two days later.

Nico Uys, the chairman of the Dullstroom Agricultural Union and Dullstoom Community Policing Forum, said the community had been traumatised by recent events.

"People are very bitter about what happened to Robert and Sue. They are also scared," he said.

"The general consensus is that we are receiving no protection whatsoever from government. We are left to fend for ourselves."

This is not the first time Dullstroom has been subjected to the brutal murder of an elderly person.

In February 2012 Johanna Moore (78) was burnt and beaten to death with a clothes iron.

And in September 2014 Sarel Janse van Rensburg was beaten to death on a farm in Tonteldoos, 12 miles from Dullstroom.

Violent crime is nothing new in South Africa. In 2015/16, 18,673 murders were recorded in the country.

Farm attacks were declared a priority crime in January 2016. Despite this declaration by acting police commissioner, general Khomotso Phahlane, farmers feel that other than words, nothing much has changed.

According to the TAU (Transvaal Agricultural Union) 2017 has seen 59 farm attacks and 19 murders.

Of the 19 people killed, a staggering 16 murders took place this month alone.

Farming has become one of the most dangerous occupations in South Africa.

There are an estimated 32,000 commercial farmers in the country.

Comparing police murder statistics with farm murders statistics, it is four times more likely for a farmer to be killed than a police officer.

Jana Boshoff is a journalist with the Middelburg Observer

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