I have no idea how accurate the media has portrayed the events surrounding the recent fatal (and tragic) shooting incident on a farm near Sutherland in the Northern Cape. Based on what has been reported so far, there appears to be a number of ambiguous issues, which strongly hint at the probability that the South African Police, and also the owner of the Sutherland farm, may be partly responsible for this tragedy. This posting will explore these issues, based on what has already been reported in the media.
THE ROLE PLAYERS
Fugitives on the run:
Philippe Pierre Méniére (60) and Agnes Jeanne Jardel (55).
Mr Méniére is a qualified medical doctor who underwent some military training in France. Rumours are that the couple are survival experts and also members of a cult known as the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. According to the latest reports they are presumably hiding in the koppies and kloofs of the hilly Karoo Hoogland veld. The couple have South African citizenship but are of French origin and speak with heavy French accents.
Farm owner and sons:
Mr Gerhard du Plessis and his two sons, Jaen (26) and Cobus (28).
Four members of the SA Police:
Student-constable, Jacob Boleme (27) – shot and killed.
Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit (42) – wounded.
(The two other policemen’s names have not been revealed by the media.)
The incident occurred on Friday, 14 Jan 2011, on the farm Hardie, approximately 35km outside Sutherland.
Two tenants, an elderly couple, Philippe Pierre Méniére (60) and Agnes Jeanne Jardel (55), were residing in a homestead situated on the farm. (Many news reports, including Rapport, did not even get their names or ages right!)
The owner of the farm, Mr Gerhard du Plessis, was well-acquainted with this couple, and apparently allowed them to live on the property rent-free. This arrangement continued for nearly 12 years, until the farmer decided that it was time the tenants had to be evicted, to make place for his two sons Jaen (26) and Cobus (28).
When Mr du Plessis informed the couple that they were to vacate the property, as he had intentions of renovating the home for his two sons, they apparently refused. According to Mr du Plessis, the couple were arrogant.
At that point in time Mr du Plessis decided to utilize the long arm of the law to evict the couple. Knowing full well that the police do not handle domestic affairs related to the expulsion of arrogant tenants, as the police do not involve themselves with such trivial civil matters, he then attracted the undivided attention of the SA Police by informing them that the elderly couple were “possibly” in possession of illegal firearms.
As expected, the local police then responded with extreme enthusiasm, and wasted no time in obtaining a search warrant. Four policemen arrived on the property with the warrant on Friday afternoon at 14:00, accompanied by the farmer Mr du Plessis and his two sons, Cobus and Jaen.
According to a report by www.iol.co.za, dated 18 January 2011, the only armed policeman on the scene was the trainee student-constable, Jacob Boleme (27).
Various reports mention that the search went smoothly without any resistance whatsoever, and that the police found firearms in the safe (quantity unknown), which implies that Mr Philippe Méniére must have voluntary given them the key **. Mrs Agnes Jardel was, according to Mr Méniére, somewhere in the veld at that point in time.
According to the latest reports, as published in the Afrikaans Rapport newspaper, dated Sunday, Jan 23 2011, the police themselves opened the safe using explosives.
This is where things get rather confusing, as the various media reports contradict one another.
It appears that the search and seizure of weapons was completed, and that the arrest of Mr Méniére was in process, when Mr Méniére apparently grabbed the student-constable’s firearm and promptly shot him dead. Other reports state that Mrs Jardel suddenly appeared on the scene at that point in time, and also started shooting. The shots were apparently fired while the police were loading the confiscated firearms in the police vehicle.
Come what may - fright turned to flight, and all hell must have broken loose, as the last thing the police expected was that two old ‘unstable’ foggies were going to attack them, AND then also pursue them? It usually works the other way around, - but This Is Africa remember!
Most reports indicate that everyone, including the three remaining policemen, fled the scene, followed by the couple who jumped into Mr Du Plessis’s bakkie and pursued the fleeing cops, shooting at them while the chase was on.
It is alleged that Mr Méniére shot and wounded Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit (42), during this chase. The Cape Times reported on Monday that the wounded police officer, was treated in the intensive care unit at the N1 City Hospital.
Speaking from the intensive care unit at N1 City Hospital in Cape Town, Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit said he was lucky to still be alive. “After he shot me in the back, he kept firing at the tyres of our cars. I lay on the ground, afraid I was going to die,” said Du Toit. Source: www.iol.co.za
Mr du Plessis’s abandoned bakkie was found on the farm, and that specific location was then used as the starting point from where the police conducted their search for the fleeing couple. They also found two full rucksacks with medical supplies lying next to the abandoned bakkie, and a 20-litre container of water. Police say it is possible the couple may have stashed supplies somewhere in the veld. With the recent good rains there is plenty of water in the veld. Most farm dams are full, and there are full water tanks at windpumps in the area. Source: www.tios.co.za
The couple are still on the run, and the small town of Sutherland has witnessed the biggest manhunt in its entire history, with between 50 and 60 police officers from around the country converging on the area. According to the Cape Times the manhunt includes the Hawks, National Intervention Unit, and tracking units (with dogs) from Pretoria and Cape Town.
It is also alleged that the fugitive couple are armed with the following firearms:
- One 12-bore pump action shotgun
- One semi-automatic .223 rifle
- One .357 Magnum calibre revolver
- One .38 Special calibre revolver
- One 9mm pistol
According to a report in Eye Witness News, farm owner Gerhardus du Plessis’ daughter-in-law Jolene said most residents are not afraid of the couple. “I think the only people that really need to be scared is actually myself and my husband who was on the scene. We knew them for quite a few years. They were very friendly people, very philosophical people,” she said. She also mentioned that the couple once tried to convince her father-in-law to build them a bunker to live in.
A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!
If all the facts are accurate, then this case is a typical example of a crime-scene gone horribly wrong!
Although the owner of the farm, Mr du Plessis, had every right to call in the government troops to search for illegal firearms on his property, I get the general impression that Mr du Plessis’ true intentions were to get the couple off his farm. He thus utilized the free services of the State to achieve this purpose, purely because he needed the farmhouse for his own family.
Mr du Plessis and his family were-acquainted with the French couple for more than a decade. The question is, for how long did he know that the couple were in possession of illegal firearms, before reporting the matter to the police? In my opinion, the whole affair could have been settled amiably if alternative accommodation was offered to the French couple, and if the couple were long-ago informed, through constructive and persuasive dialogue, what the legal procedures were regarding the licensing of firearms in South Africa. (The fact that the entire prosedure is a total mess at the moment, is besides the point!)
The next ingredient in the recipe for disaster was the couple’s affiliation with the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, - another fact that Mr du Plessis was aware of! The question is, were the police briefed on this matter, and if the police were briefed, did they pay any attention?
Also, the police approach to and their handling of the crime-scene seems rather slack and unprofessional, to say the least! The crime-scene did not present itself when the first shot was fired; the scene was already a ‘potential’ crime the moment Mr du Plessis reported the matter, but it was obviously not treated as such. Since when do the police allow almost the entire family to accompany them to a scene? Surely one person is all they need to point out the location?
I find it extremely hard to believe that the only armed policeman on the scene was a trainee student-constable, with absolute zero experience!
If he had any police experience at all, he would have kept his distance from the suspect. If this fact is true then the Station Commander in Sutherland and also the National Police Commissioner has some serious explaining to do, but I suppose these matters will be simply swept under the carpet, as usual. Nevertheless, I hope the deceased’s family sues the pants off the Minister of Police!
If the media reports are anything to go by, then the following transparent blunders were also committed by the police:
- Either there was no briefing at all, or the police did not pay attention and hence made no preparations. This is a common mistake inexperienced policemen make; they do not plan a search-and-seizure operation according to the standard protocols, and neither do the take heed of WHAT and WHO they are dealing with, - particularly in cases were they’re dealing with private citizens, who have never committed any offence in their lives before.
- In this case, if they were properly briefed or did their homework, they would have realized that they were dealing with a potentially dangerous freaky New Age Rambo lunatic!
- The suspect, Mr Méniére, was never handcuffed, or placed under some form of restraint while the search-and-seizure was taking place.
- Although it’s always easy to point fingers after the event, it is unfortunately true that the police officers in this case totally underestimated the survival skills and cunning wisdom of an elderly couple.
- Not one single person took into account that the couple had ample opportunity (possibly years) to prepare for the coming onslaught on the invasion of their privacy, and also their weapons which they firmly believed were essential tools for their ‘end-time’ survival.
- The police simply accepted Mr Méniére’s explanation that Mrs Jardel was somewhere in the veld. They did not bother to locate her, and neither did they take heed of the fact that she was possibly armed and also dangerous. Her sudden appearance on the scene with a gun spitting bullets caught them totally off guard.
THE ONLINE NEWS REPORTS:
- Rapport: Polisie jag gevaarlike Franse egpaar (2011-01-15)
- News24: Cops hunting 'dangerous' French couple (2011-01-17)
- IOL News: Cop shot by cultists speaks (2011-01-17)
- IOL News: Huge manhunt for cult couple (2011-01-18)
- Mail & Guardian Online: Search for French couple continues in Sutherland (2011-01-18)
- Eye Witness News: French fugitives were ’pleasant people’
UPDATE: 20 JANUARY 2011
And so the story ends… ‘Cult’ couple killed in shootout
Police confirmed on Thursday (2011-01-20) that they had found two bodies in a building on the Hardie farm after a shootout at about noon. Source: www.capeargus.co.za