“I AM so very scared of going to prison.” These were the words of former police officer Marius van der Westhuizen, who will go to jail this morning – five years after executing all three of his sleeping children.
This week the Supreme Court of Appeal found that his inability to handle everyday stresses and his tendency to blame others for his behaviour might cause him to remain a danger to others if he was placed in similar traumatic situations.
Van der Westhuizen lost his epic legal battle in the Supreme Court of Appeal on Monday after fighting in vain for years to get a verdict that he did not know what he was doing when he shot his three children.
Yesterday he spent his last hours as a free man in Uitenhage, bidding his family farewell.
“I heard that my appeal was dismissed on the 3pmo’clock news,” he said. “I am so very scared of going to prison. It is a horrible place. When I was there for a week (before being released on bail) I was threatened with horrible things.”
Meanwhile his attorney, Milton de la Harpe, is preparing an application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
“I am trying to think positively,” he said. He would try to keep his head high and not become depressed.
Van der Westhuizen previously said he had lost everything when his children died.
While on trial he always carried framed pictures of his children with him. Mostly he was crying over the night of July 28, 2006, when things went horribly wrong.
The court found that Van der Westhuizen had, on that night, walked around his house with his service pistol, and killed his children one after the other while his wife, Charlotte, was desperately running after him.
He first killed Bianca, his handicapped daughter from his first marriage, then his son, Marius jnr (Boetie), and then 21-month-old baby Antoinette.
He was found guilty on three counts of murder by Judge Willem Louw and sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment.
The state alleged that the murders were the last stage of a persistent pattern of Van der Westhuizen punishing his wife that had carried on for years.
De la Harpe however argued that his behaviour was clearly out of control.
Three judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal found this week that Van der Westhuizen had acted in a manner that “illustrates deliberate, reasoned and complex behaviour”.
Appeal Court Judge Suretha Snyders said in her judgment: “He put a choice to his wife [she was asked to choose between him and her work] and when her answer was not what he wanted to hear he commenced behaviour that resulted in the ultimate punishment for her.
He took her mobile phone, preventing her from telephoning for help. He opened and closed doors and switched on lights as he went.
“He waited for her to arrive in the bedrooms of the children before he pulled the trigger. He ignored her screams and pleas to stop. The horror of his first, nor for that matter his second, shot did not throw him off course. He kept on repeating to her that his actions were the consequences of her choice. He told her she should not fear as he was not going to shoot her.
“He only handed her phone back to her after all three children were killed … he then locked his wife in the house with the dead children and went and hid in the back garden.”
Later that evening he tried to commit suicide.
“Van der Westhuizen has in fact achieved what he set out to achieve. He has caused his wife the ultimate agony, as her evidence revealed. For the rest of her life she will have to contend with the horrific images of what occurred,” Snyders said.