Family in need of answers

LOVING COUPLE: Claus Schroeder and his wife, Tanja, pictured shortly before his disappearance
LOVING COUPLE: Claus Schroeder and his wife, Tanja, pictured shortly before his disappearance

Six years on, mystery still surrounds death of beloved husband, father

SIX years is a long time for any family in distress and German national Tanja Schroeder and her two sons, Daniel and Tobias, are no exception.

In fact, when it comes to trauma the Schroeders of Jeffreys Bay have arguably had more than their fair share.

But instead of packing their bags and heading for what might be an easier life in Germany, they have remained rooted in South Africa.

Continuing their murdered husband and father’s legacy is what has made them stay.

Since August 14 2009, the day Tanja last saw her blonde, bulky and good-looking husband Claus alive, Daniel and Tobias have grown into young men, with Tobias, now aged 20, making waves on the German surfing scene and Daniel, 26, graduating with an environmental degree from Rhodes University.

Tanja has remarkably and bravely kept the home-fires burning. Not only has she had to sustain and maintain the business she and her husband built together, she has had to battle it out in the Port Elizabeth High Court to have tenants evicted from property her family owns.

And this all against a backdrop of wondering why and how her husband mysteriously disappeared and died.

In an interview with Weekend Post this week, Tanja, 51, said while she believed Claus was no longer alive, it was not something that she was able to accept.

“This is not something that anyone can accept. He did not die in an accident or due to an illness. He is no longer here because someone else has taken his life.

“You never accept that, no one can. But you learn to live with it.”

Almost six years on, the Schroeders still do not have any information on what had happened to Claus.

There is hope that the continuing trial in the Port Elizabeth High Court will shed some light on Claus’s last days alive.

While his body has never been found, Jens Leunberg, 36, and common law wife Kristina Adler, 38, have been charged with Claus’s murder and two counts of fraud.

The state alleges that they murdered Schroeder on his farm, Owvanuk, near Thornhill, in August 2009 before disposing of his body.

Their trial started in the High Court on Monday and is expected to continue until March 20. “It has been nearly six years now and finally we have come to the point where the trial has gone to court.

“It has taken a while for a variety of reasons but we are pleased because this means we are a little closer to the truth. I hope the truth will come out and we will hear what happened to my husband,” Tanja said.

She said Claus had left home on August 14 2009 to visit Leunberg and Adler at Owvanuk, which they had agreed to buy from him. He never returned home.

“I called his phone that entire day. It was not like him to not check up with me and tell me where he is. I called them too but there was no answer. No one answered their phones.”

Tanja said she hoped that they would discover what had become of Claus’s body so that they could give him a proper burial.

“It would mean so much to me and my sons to give him the burial that he deserves. So I really hope that comes out of the trial.”

Tanja and Claus met in Germany in 1982 when she was 18 and he was 21. They then married in 1987 and moved to South Africa in 2000, when Daniel was 11 and Tobias was five.

“We had so many plans for our future and now he is gone. I do not just feel like his life was taken but I feel like I got robbed of my life as well. We were together for most of our adult life and we still had so much to look forward to before he died.”

Tanja said despite her grief she had continued running Claus’s business, Schroeder Motor Homes, which manufactures motor homes and furniture.

“I felt that I had to carry on with the business. I could not close it down because of the staff. We are still running in Jeffreys Bay.”

-Lee-Anne Butler 

The Schroeder family were present at the start of the PE high court trial of Jens Leunberg and Kristina Adler on Monday. From left, Daniler Schroeder, Tanja Schroeder, Tobias Shroeder and Tanja's parents, Inge and Elmar Mitnacht, who arrived from Germany
The Schroeder family were present at the start of the PE high court trial of Jens Leunberg and Kristina Adler on Monday. From left, Daniler Schroeder, Tanja Schroeder, Tobias Shroeder and Tanja’s parents, Inge and Elmar Mitnacht, who arrived from Germany

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