Action Society’s legal team filed court papers against the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, on behalf of Reverend Liezel de Jager’s father, Henk van Zyl, at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today, seeking a mandamus interdict to compel the police to properly investigate Liezel’s murder.
Liezel was strangled to death outside her house on 13 October 2021, more than two years ago, but the quest for justice remains elusive, marked by a conspicuous absence of any arrests. Despite numerous attempts by Liezel’s father, Henk van Zyl and Action Society, there has been a significant lack of response, urgency or substantive action taken by the South African Police Service.
According to Ian Cameron, Director of Community Safety at Action Society, Henk and Action Society has made no less than 91 calls and sent messages to various officers and authorities between 21 October 2021 and 11 October 2023, including Captain Marius van der Looy, the investigating officer, Major-General Motsepe, the Head of Specific Crime Investigations, Division Detective and Forensic Services, and Colonel McGray, District Head of Detectives in KZN. All the attempts continue to fall on deaf ears. Henk gave Action Society the mandate to assist in the investigation and the pursuit of justice for Liezel in August 2022.
“The Minister of Police and the South African Police Service have failed to conduct a meticulous, thorough and timeous investigation into the circumstances surrounding Liezel’s death. The lack of updates, the seeming lack of progress, and the failure to exhaustively explore all leads and potential evidence illustrate a clear breach of their obligations and have caused a breach of the constitutional rights of Liezel’s family, particularly their rights to life, dignity, equality and justice.”
The relief sought in the mandamus interdict is that the Police Minister is directed to take any and all necessary steps within 30 days, authorising, facilitating, and enabling all steps necessary to ensure a thorough, unbiased, and expeditions investigation into Liezel’s murder, including, but not limited to:
- Assigning competent and experienced investigators to the case;
- Reviewing all evidence collected thus far and ensuring its proper preservation and analysis;
- Engaging with forensic experts, as necessary, for a comprehensive examination of pertinent evidence;
- Interviewing all potential witnesses and recording their statements in a thorough and timely manner;
- Actively pursuing all leads and potential suspects;
- Ensuring that all investigative procedures and actions are in compliance with relevant legal and statutory guidelines; and
- Collaborating, where necessary, with other law enforcement agencies or external bodies to bolster the investigative process.
Timeline of events:
|13 October 2021||Liezel de Jager is found dead in her yard after her morning jog. Adjacent to the body, her personal items such as her cellphone, handbag, and gate keys were located. (CAS135/10/2021)|
|14 October 2021||Meeting between Henk van Zyl (Liezel de Jager’s father) and Captain Singh, the officer initially assigned as the investigator to this case.|
|17 October 2021||Various meetings were convened between Henk van Zyl and Captain Marius van der Looy, who is the current investigator overseeing this case, with the first meeting occurring on 17 October 2021.|
|22 October 2021||A meeting was facilitated between Henk van Zyl and both Lieutenant Colonel Jan de Lange and Captain Naomi Griffiths, criminologists affiliated with the South African Police Service, stationed in Pretoria.|
|24 October 2021||Concern arose when Henk van Zyl notified the police about Werner De Jager’s, the husband of the deceased, unexplained absence after unsuccessful attempts to establish contact. This led to an official manhunt.|
|27 October 2021||An Illovo farmer located Werner de Jager. He was found within his vehicle, positioned in a sugarcane field, appearing dazed and disoriented. Two jerry cans filled with petrol were found in his car. Mr De Jager was then transported to a hospital.|
|10 November 2022||More than a year following the incident, forensic experts were still not provided with the necessary documentation (SAP 205), causing frustration. Lieutenant Colonel de Lange confirmed with Henk van Zyl that the “Cyber Crime” division had not yet received the SAP 205. Communication with Lieutenant Colonel de Lange ceased at the end of December 2022 when he retired early from his position.|
|15 November 2022||Henk van Zyl sent a request for the case to be transferred to the Special Investigation Unit at the Head Office in Pretoria. Despite numerous follow up emails, no progress was made.|
|1 April 2023||Following a new revelation SAPS spokesperson, Captain Charlene van der Spuy, confirmed that in collaboration with SAPS’s Forensic Investigative Psychology Unit they would meticulously scrutinise the De Jagers’ home, collecting evidence and interviewing nearby residents. Additionally, they were reportedly examining any accessible CCTV footage related to the case.|
|15 May 2023||Henk van Zyl sent an email to the SAPS members responsible for the investigation and requested feedback regarding the investigation. Mr Ian Cameron of Action Society NPC was included to assist with the ongoing investigation which is being delayed.|
|25 May 2023||Mr Cameron sent a complaint which was addressed to inter alia the SAPS and the South African Human Rights Commission. Receipt of the complaint was acknowledged on the same day.|
|7, 20 June 2023||Mr Cameron of Action Society NPC sent a formal complaint to the national police inspectorate. Further emails were exchanged between 7 June 2023 and 20 June 2023 by Mr Cameron and various members of the SAPS.|
|20 October 2023||After numerous follow up emails sent by Mr Cameron, Captain E. Singh respond to the complaints lodged by Mr Cameron. However, the response was limited as Captain Singh merely responded by saying that the SAPD “apologises for the lack of professionalism and sympathy”. No substantive feedback was provided.|
“The blatant inaction and inefficiencies in the investigative processes have resulted in severe emotional and psychological distress to Liezel’s family and the uncertainty and perception that justice is not being served is ongoing. The fair amount of public interest in Liezel’s case highlighted the ineffective investigation, undermining public confidence in the justice system and the SAPS. Tragically, Liezel’s isn’t the only case being neglected by the SAPS. She represents thousands of cases. The failure to conduct a meticulous and swift investigation into serious crimes such as murder impedes the pursuit of justice. We cannot allow this to happen.”