29 July 2022

His name was Syd – He was not just a number

Submitted by Nicola Killops
His name was Syd – He was not just a number

When Syd Syrett returned to Johannesburg after spending two weeks with his son in Cape Town, he was beaming. He had finally met his precious grandchildren, 13-month-old twins Ethan and Ella, who took to him instantly. He spent time bonding with the babies and catching up with his son Steve and daughter-in-law, Kelly.

He hoped to build a lasting connection with his grandchildren and bid a fond farewell to his family members in the Cape. When Syd left, he said, "I love you", and kissed his son on the cheek.

Kelly made sure to capture as much of the babies' time with their grandfather on camera and proudly posted the following update on her Facebook page at the end of his visit:

“Grandad Syrett comes to visit! been such a special time for the babas and for gramps, been so nice for them to spend time with their special grandad. Ella bear is smitten. can't wait for our Syrett family Christmas                                                                          

None of them imagined that there would be no Syrett family Christmas – at least not a happy one. That was the last time Steve saw his dad; it would be the last time Syd saw his grandchildren.

On 11 July 2022, Syd became another statistic. After fighting for his life for five days, he succumbed to the injuries he received during a home invasion on 6 July. The dedicated father and loving grandfather became one of the 63 people murdered in South Africa daily.

On the day of his attack, Syd once again had his family at the front of his mind. He'd been online planning a trip to the UK in August to see his daughter Jules, granddaughter Danielle and the many friends and family members he hadn't had a chance to see in a long time.

He was on a phone call to a close friend in the UK, excitedly discussing his plans, but those plans were quashed in a single act of brutality. The conversation ended abruptly when his friend heard unsettling loud noises, smashing glass and raised voices.

Through the chaos, she made out Syd's voice, yelling, "Get out of here!" followed by a gut-wrenching thud and a loud moaning. When Syd didn't respond and was obviously in serious trouble, she hung up and contacted Syd's daughter Claire. Claire raced the 40km from her home to her dad's while her husband, Dan, continued to try and make contact. They also urgently summoned help by calling 10111.

Claire arrived to find her father's home covered in his blood. He was alive but extremely disorientated, with a massive lump on the back of his head and a severely bleeding eye. Syd was rushed to the hospital, his body in shock. His headwound was extensive and required emergency surgery, but despite the doctor's best efforts, Syd eventually lost all brain activity and slipped away after five days.

Syd was in his home on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon when five men entered his house and smashed his head in with a rock. Syd was planning his future, looking forward to family time and chatting with an old friend when five men ended his life for nothing but a cell phone.

These five men didn't see a kind, compassionate man known for his integrity, loyalty and wicked sense of humour. They didn't see a supportive father whose children still turned to him for wisdom and moral support – which he lovingly gave without fail.

Syd had a life. Syd was loved. The montage of memories that play through the minds of those that knew him shows a man with an adventurous spirit, who served in the Merchant Navy, worked hard throughout his life and would never turn his back on a fellow human being. The family remembers a man who deeply loved books, loved Bokke, Newcastle United and a braai with his nearest and dearest. They can see Syd in their mind's eye, up to his elbows in grease and tools, as he passionately rebuilt vintage cars.

And now, they also see him suffering in his last conscious moments after five men destroyed it all in a second.

Syd's name was added to a list of approximately 62 other people who were murdered the day he died. Of those cases, statistics show that only 20% will even see a courtroom; of those that do, less than half will lead to a conviction.

Five men snatched away a life and left a family bereft. And they went home – their lives continuing without consequence.

Syd's family is not prepared to let those five men sleep soundly at night. They demand justice; justice for Syd and awareness of the desperate need for retribution on behalf of the approximately 23 000 people who will die at the hands of other so-called human beings this year.

Unfortunately, due to limited police resources, Syd’s family must turn to the private sector to bring these cowards to book. The family has a private investigation firm on standby to begin an enquiry into the senseless crime and to make the assailants pay the price for their actions. In addition, they have launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of the investigation, ensuring Syd will not disappear into history as another statistic.

To support the Syrett family and help ensure a measure of justice for Syd, visit the crowdfunding campaign on https://www.backabuddy.co.za/sydney-syrett.

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