Ranger held for child’s death
Father of foster daughter faces murder charge for Addo shooting
The Addo Elephant Park ranger who fatally shot his one-year-old foster child and wounded his wife – who was holding the toddler at the time – has been arrested.
The tragic shooting, which at the time was said to be accidental, resulted in little Joslyn Snyman bleeding to death after the assault rifle bullet ripped through her leg.
Park ranger Shaun Billet, 45, the father of two other children, was arrested at 7am on Wednesday for murder and attempted murder.
The shooting triggered another probe by police into the rifles and firearms kept at the SANParks reserve.
Joslyn’s tragic death happened at 7am on June 27 at the Billets’ staff home in the Arizona camp at the Addo Elephant National Park.
Police said yesterday that Joslyn – the niece of Billet’s wife, Irene, 42 – had been living with the family since Irene’s sister died shortly after giving birth to the little girl.
The Billets had then become Joslyn’s legal guardians.
The incident happened as Billet was preparing to leave the house for shooting practice.
On Wednesday morning, Billet appeared in the Paterson Magistrate’s Court and was released on R500 bail.
Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said: “I can confirm that the ranger was arrested after an investigation into the incident. The probe is, however, still ongoing and detectives are awaiting various reports.”
Beetge said detectives spoke to Billet and he agreed to meet them at the Paterson police station on Wednesday.Asked about the murder charge, and whether it was still thought to be an accidental shooting, Beetge said the charge of murder and attempted murder could be changed at a later stage.
“Once all the evidence is obtained, the state prosecutor and the court will decide on whether the charges should be changed.
“For now, he has been charged with murder, attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
“During the course of the investigation, discrepancies were found with regard to the firearm and this is still being investigated.
“This has led to the additional investigation with regard to the firearms,” he said.
Yesterday, SA National Parks spokesperson Fayroush Ludick said: “The investigation is still ongoing, therefore we cannot comment at this stage.”
According to police, Billet was standing in the bedroom with his wife and the child while the R1 rifle was attached to a sling hanging over his shoulder.
At the time, Beetge said: “He removed the magazine from the rifle and wanted to take the live round out of the chamber.
“But while taking the rifle off his shoulder to do so, a shot went off, hitting the child in the upper leg and the mother in her lower arm.”
The postmortem revealed that the child had bled to death. After the shooting, Irene was taken to Livingstone Hospital.
At the time, park regional head John Adendorff said all indications pointed to an accidental discharge.
Billet is due to appear in court again on August 13.