Farmer dies in police stand-off
Jacques Steenkamp, Beeld and Lloyd Burnard, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - In a series of events resembling a Hollywood film, a man was shot and killed in his farmhouse after he had been involved in a four-and-a-half-hour-long stand-off with police.
A police report stated that Kobus de Vries, 54, was shot in the neck and that it is unclear at this stage whether the bullet that killed him was fired by a police officer or if he resorted to suicide.
The incident in Babanango, northern KwaZulu-Natal, happened on Thursday the same day the fugitive French couple died on a farm at Sutherland following a week-long search after they shot and killed a policeman.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Phindile Radebe said police arrived at De Vries’s farmhouse to follow up on reports that he had been involved in several altercations and minor accidents, allegedly with Eskom workers, on his way home from town.
His family said he was unhappy over constant power black-outs on his farm.
“He had hit two vehicles with his vehicle before going home,” said Radebe. “The owner of one of the vehicles alerted police of the situation and his whereabouts.”
Police went to the farm, but, Radebe said, before they even got out of the van they came under fire from the house and were forced to call for back-up. “… the officers couldn’t move and one of the police vans was damaged from (sic) the gunfire”.
Radebe said De Vries used a shotgun as well as a .303 rifle.
However, members of De Vries’s family have expressed doubts over the police’s version of what transpired.
“The allegation is that my brother was involved in two accidents on the way home, but it does not make sense as there was only a scrape on his car,” said De Vries’s brother, Thinus.
There is further confusion regarding the way that De Vries was shot, with his uncle, Phillip van Vuuren, 83, saying that De Vries was shot by a police bullet in the back while attempting to run back into his house.
“A worker was asked to convince him to come out with the promise that the police would not shoot if he surrendered,” explained Van Vuuren.
“When the farm worker walked out with him [De Vries] the police apparently started firing.”
'Very rich, happy'
The idea of suicide was further expelled by Thinus de Vries. “He was very rich and very happy; he would never commit suicide,” he said.
Radebe said that she had no knowledge of De Vries being asked to come out of the house. She confirmed that 19 firearms were found in De Vries’s house, which is likely to be explained by the fact that he was a passionate gunsmith.
Radebe added that De Vries was seen with a glass of liquid in his hand during the shootout, but could not confirm that he was drunk.
De Vries was returning from dropping his wife, Rentia, described as his childhood sweetheart, but whom he only married last year, at King Shaka airport.
Thinus de Vries added that members of the family, including Rentia, will be visiting the farm today (Monday) with two private detectives and a private pathologist to begin their own investigation into what happened.
An inquest has been opened into the cause of death.