Family and friends commemorate Liezel’s passion and love on what would have been her 40th birthday, 655 days after her murder

Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est – Where there is charity and love, there the God of love abides.

This is the song colleagues of Reverend Liezel de Jager will always recall when they think of her, according to a letter they wrote to her daughters, published in the Kerkbode in November 2021. “She is all of us. We are her. That’s why we can barely breathe right now,” another colleague and friend wrote on Facebook. And while family members still have no answers nor justice after Liezel’s murder 655 days ago, they choose to remember her love for her family, her friends and above all her God today as they commemorate what would have been her 40th birthday.

Reverend Liezel de Jager was brutally strangled to death in her yard in Amanzimtoti on October 13, 2021. She was returning home from her morning jog with her friends when she was last seen alive. She was only 38-years-old. Her body was found by her husband, Werner de Jager, in her yard. But none of Liezel’s personal items, including her cellphone and wallet were stolen, indicating that the perpetrator’s sole intent was to end her life.

The crime was reported to the police, whose shocking indifference and investigative neglect has left Liezel’s friends and family with no answers and the case seemingly cold and forgotten. To date, not as much as a completed post mortem report has been released.

Action Society and Liezel’s family published a video today to #SayHerName. “She will not be just another number in South Africa’s shocking crime statistics of violence against women and children. She will be remembered. And as her friend so accurately said: She is all of us. We are her. So wee will #SayHerName: Liezel de Jager,” says Ian Cameron, Director of Community Safety at Action Society.

 

Police negligence and neglect

Liezel’s father, Henk van Zyl had an impressive career in the police of over 22 years, but the lack of investigative urgency and professionalism in the investigation along with the shocking lack of communication over the past 21 months, has left him with no confidence in the South African Police Service (SAPS) to bring Justice for Liezel.

The crime scene was cleared shortly after Liezel’s death, demonstrating the incompetence and lack of care of the police. The police excused this negligence by saying they wanted to prevent traumatising the children and relatives. To make matters even worse, the funeral parlour notified Henk that the police had requested Liezel’s body back a day before the funeral in order to correct something regarding the post-mortem.

Henk gave Action Society the mandate to assist in the investigation and the pursuit of #JusticeForLiezel in August 2022.

According to Cameron, there is a person of interest whose cell phone might contain pertinent information that, along with information from Liezel and her husband’s phones, can lead to a breakthrough in the case. “We will continue to put pressure on the police to share their forensic analysis, particularly also the watch Liezel was wearing at the time of her murder. We also know that skin was found underneath Liezel’s fingernails, indicating that there was some form of struggle between her and her killer. We believe that these two pieces of evidence could shed much needed light on the case and bring us closer to bringing Liezel’s killer to justice.” Meanwhile, detectives compiled a list of questions for the husband and requested he answer under a polygraph test, but they never followed up when he failed to respond or show up.

Between August 2022 and this month, Action Society has formally followed up about Liezel’s case more than 18 times. “We have actively guided the investigating officer in the pursuit of justice for Liezel. But in all this time, they have grossly neglected to follow up on evidence or give feedback to the family about new developments in the case. In fact, the feedback shows the activity in the investigation quite accurately. There is none.”

#SayHerName

Liezel was a beloved reverend at the NG Suidkus Church in Amanzimtoti and was an inspiring figure in her community. She was a beacon of light for her family, friends and loved ones.

“I remember Liezel as a friendly, beautiful woman who was always smiling,” said a brokenhearted grandfather. “She never changed – since she was a young girl she always stayed the same.”

Liezel’s mother, Salomé described her daughter as a gift from God. “Liezel, I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. You were this beautiful, unique little girl that was given to me. I have loved you since the day you were born. Know that I miss you, and we will meet each other again in heaven some day.”

Liezel had a very large group of friends throughout her life, all of whom still feel an empty void following her sudden death. Liezel’s friends described her as someone who had a lust for life and all of her friends had something to say about her contagious laugh and smile.

“She was a perfect example of love,” said one close friend. “Her positivity was inspiring and always saw the good in people and cared deeply for all her friends, family and congregation.” Liezel made sure to keep in touch with all her friends and stood by them whenever they faced challenges. Many of the tributes were from friends who knew her for more than 20 years.

“Her faith in God was exemplary. She put her faith in God over everything, and lived her life to honour Him. Liezel embodied the love of God,” many friends testified.

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