Abducted, attacked and robbed multiple times – survivor tells her story

Danelle Murray, co-founder of the Owl Rescue Centre in Hartbeespoort and Junior, an owl she rescued. Photo: submitted.

“When I was eight years old, we survived an attack by armed men at our family home. After months of staying with my grandmother, my mother finally gathered enough courage for us to return home.

“That night she asked me to feed our family dog outside. I was terrified and still very traumatised. As I stood staring into the darkness, almost numb with fear, I heard a hissing sound coming from above my head. I looked up to find a barn owl sitting on top of the water tower, staring at me. He was beautiful and reminded me of an angel with his heart-shaped face. I believed that he was there to look over me. I have always loved animals and these days I have the privilege of looking after owls. I feel a very strong bond and special connection to them.”

Pilot Richard Niyaki and his sister Arina with Danelle Murray.
Photo: Submitted.

This is the story of Danelle Murray, co-founder of Owl Rescue Centre, based in Hartbeespoort. You might recognise the name from the countless owls they have saved right here in our town. One of the latest rescues in Krugersdorp was that of Rex, a barn owl that was trapped in Cradlestone Mall. Owl Rescue saved little Rex from the mall’s centre court on 13 March, 2017.

Read the article here: Thank you for rescuing me

Danelle Murray feeding Peanut, an owl at her rescue centre.
Photo: Bianca Pindral.

Danelle has come a long way to be able to save the owls with the little heart-shaped faces she adores so much. There have been multiple attacks on her family, and she was abducted. And as conservationists living in South Africa, she and her husband Brendan have had to overcome many other challenges including farm attacks and several robberies. To document her experiences, struggles in and love of South Africa, Danelle recently wrote memoirs of her experiences titled My Dark Country.

“I don’t want to give too much away and risk spoiling it for the reader, but we were abducted by three armed men. After having dinner at a restaurant, we walked up to our car, not expecting any danger. Brendan, the gentleman he is, opened my door for me to get in but a car pulled up behind our vehicle. The occupants forced us at gunpoint to get into it. We were taken to a veld near an informal settlement where we were held captive.”

Danelle Murray on her way to release one of the owls she helped to rehabilitate.
Photo: Submitted

A quote from her book reads:

“There, with my feet planted firmly on the harsh, torrid ground, I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would never tire of the splendour of my whereabouts. I would never look up at the mountain and not appreciate it for its magnificence.”

After surviving these horrific experiences Danelle turned her attention to the Owl Rescue Centre.

“Saving owls gives my life a distinct purpose and meaning; I will always consider it a great privilege.

“The title of my book, My Dark Country, is a reference to owls being primarily nocturnal and because a large amount of our work is done at night; night-time has a distinctive connotation to our realm,” she explained.

Danelle and her family have also endured many dark hours and she believes that some kind of darkness is eroding the moral fibre of South Africans.

Her undying love of owls, she explained, has to do with their “unique and mysterious confidence, as if they know something that no one else does”.

The Murrays do not have any plans to leave the farm. “We need the open space for what we do. We want only to be, and be able to do what we love, but we are aware of all the dangers. A lot of our work is done at night and this leaves us vulnerable to attacks. I elaborate on this topic in great detail in the book.”

Her book is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format. She hopes to have the book on bookstore shelves by February. However, it can also be purchased directly from the Owl Rescue Centre by placing an order to [email protected].

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] or phone us on 011 955 1130.I 

For free daily local news on the West Rand, also visit our sister websites: 

Randfontein Herald

Roodepoort Record

Get It Joburg West Magazine

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Bianca Pindral

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