A retired school principal spent more than 24 hours in her bathtub, bound and gagged, following a robbery at her home in Woodhurst, Chatsworth.

Dolly Roopnarian, 81, the former principal of Redfern Primary School in Phoenix, is now recovering in hospital. She sustained cuts to her wrists from the cable ties.

Sadha Roopnarian, a family spokesperson, said he became concerned when his phone calls to her on her landline and cellphone went unanswered on Saturday morning.

Sadha then contacted his nephew, Viren Roopnarian, who lives in Kharwastan, to check on her.

She said “She lived alone. Even when she missed a call, she always called back. When Viren got to the house, he called out to her but there was no answer. The driveway gate was locked. Her car, a Toyota Corolla, was not in the yard and the windows to her home were open. Viren had a spare key at his home and went to fetch it.”

Sadha said when Viren returned, he scaled the fence with the help of a neighbour. “They got into the yard and opened the door. The entire house was ransacked. The cupboards were opened and her belongings were thrown everywhere. Her television was taken.

“As Viren walked through the house, he could hear a faint mumble coming from the bathroom. He tried to open the bathroom door but it was locked.”

Sadha said Viren and the neighbour broke down the door. “Dolly was in the bathtub. She had duct tape across her mouth and her hands were bound with cable ties. She tried to free herself but the cable ties cut into her flesh.”

Sadha said they removed her from the bathtub, unbound her hands, and removed the duct tape from her mouth.

“They called for an ambulance and a security company for help. She was weak and dehydrated. She told us that a suspect came into the home, held her up, and forced her into the bathroom where he tied her hands and duct-taped her mouth. She could not recall if he had a gun or a knife.”

Sadha said Roopnarian could not recall the day it happened but the family believed it was either on Thursday night or Friday morning.

“Dolly was rushed to the hospital and is in a stable condition. This has been traumatic for us. To think that she was left alone without food or water. Dolly told us that she had prayed for someone to rescue her.” Sadha said Roopnarian was not married and did not have children. She is an independent person. She still drives and does things for herself.

“She prefers to live alone. She is involved in senior citizens’ groups, is a part of the Divine Life Society, and she still does yoga. She is a strong woman. We are thankful to everyone who helped us. We are grateful she survived this ordeal.”

Sadha also said they prayed the suspect was caught. “We don’t want another person to go through what she went through.”

Suren Ganapathie, from the Woodhurst Crime Forum, said criminals were preying on the vulnerable because they could not fight back. “In the area we have had petty crime but it is important for residents to be vigilant at all times. If elderly people are living alone, family and neighbours must check up on them regularly so we know they are safe.”

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a case of house robbery is being investigated by the Chatsworth police station.