'Cult couple' shot dead in deserted farmhouse

2011-01-21 00:00

SUTHERLAND — Two stun grenades exploded, and somewhere in the house a woman screamed something incomprehensible before shots rang out in the Roggeveld mountains near Sutherland yesterday.

Moments later, the bodies of a man and a woman were found in a deserted house on the farm Hardie, about 25 km outside Sutherland.

The police could not confirm whether the bodies are those of the fugitive French couple Phillippe Meniére (60) and Agnes Jeanne Jardel (55), but Lieutenant-Colonel Hendrik Swart did say the six-day search for the couple has been called off.

It will probably take much longer for police to piece the whole picture together.

The two bodies were only removed from the house where they died after 8 pm.

Police had to wait for ballistics experts before removing the bodies, Swart said.

The experts were called from Springbok because of the large amount of ammunition found at the scene.

Police closed in after a helicopter equipped with infrared night vision technology spotted movement around a house on the farm on Wednesday night.

The house is about 500 m from the one where Meniére and Jardel lived for the past 12 years, and where they shot dead Student Constable Jacob Boleme (27) and injured Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit (42) last Friday.

After the shooting, they fled and a task team of 85 police officers, backed up by a helicopter and an aeroplane, searched the farm all week.

On Wednesday night the police identified the house as a possible hiding place for the fugitives. About 10 officers arrived shortly after 11 am yesterday to investigate.

They raided the house armed with R5 assault rifles and 9 mm pistols.

Two stun grenades were fired, followed by the woman’s scream and a volley of gunshots.

Afterwards, the bodies of a man and a woman fitting the couple’s description were found.

They had bullet wounds and were in what was presumably the kitchen.

Several rifles and pistols and a large amount of ammunition were found in the house.

Shells were scattered everywhere and the walls were pocked with bullet holes.

Swart said the bodies have not been formally identified yet, but that the search for the French couple has been called off.

It is unclear which side fired first.

Swart said these details are part of the investigation, which could take days.

Ballistics tests will also have to be done to determine whose bullets killed the two.

Police are still figuring out exactly what happened on Friday.

The owner of the farm Gerhardus du Plessis informed the police on the previous night that Meniére and Jardel might be in possession of illegal firearms.

A warrant was obtained and the next day four police officers went to the house with Du Plessis’s sons, Jaen en Cobus.

Liziwe Mtshinga, the Northern Cape deputy provincial commissioner, said the events are being investigated internally.

Swart said they’re struggling to trace the couple’s family in France.

The police have not yet been able to confirm whether the two French citizens were members of the cult Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, as is alleged.

Swart was, however, able to confirm that Meniére qualified as a medical doctor in France and that he once worked at both Johannesburg General and Baragwanath hospitals.

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