Fugitive couple found in bullet-riddled room
Jan Gerber, Die Burger
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 on Thursday.
Moments later, the bodies of a man and a woman were found in a deserted house on the farm Hardie, about 25km outside Sutherland.
The police would 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 search for the couple has been called off.
This search came to a bloody end on Thursday - after six days - but it'll 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 20:00. Police did not wait for ballistics experts before removing the bodies, Swart said.
Initially Swart said the couple’s bodies couldn’t be removed before explosives experts from Springbok had studied the scene.
It is unlikely that the experts were at the scene before the bodies were removed.
The experts were called because of the amount of ammunition found at the scene and the possibility of the bodies being booby-trapped.
A police helicopter equipped with infrared night vision technology spotted movement around a house on the farm on Wednesday night.
On the run
The house is about 500m from the one where Meniére and Jardel have lived for the past 12 years and where they shot Student Constable Jacob Boleme, 27, killing him, and injured his colleague, Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit, 42, last Friday.
The two have since been on the run, with an integrated police force of 85 officials, a helicopter and a plane hot on their heels.
The police identified the house as a possible hiding place. They also believed the couple had not left the 3 000ha farm.
A neighbouring farmer went to the house on Thursday morning, completely unaware of the drama which would unfold. The house is usually only used at weekends, and Jardel and Meniére probably knew this, Swart said.
The farmer saw something wasn’t quite right and quickly left the area.
About ten police officials showed up shortly after that – after 11:00 – to investigate.
They raided the house armed with R5 assault rifles and .9mm pistols.
Two stun grenades were fired after which a woman apparently screamed something incomprehensible and then shots rang out. 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 firearms - rifles and pistols - and a large quantity of ammunition were found in the house. Shells were scattered everywhere and the walls were pockmarked with bullet holes.
Search called off
Swart would not confirm on Thursday afternoon whether it was, indeed, the French couple, since they haven't been formally identified.
He did say the search for the two has been called off.
He also couldn’t say whether the two had committed suicide or whether the police had killed them.
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.
The police are still figuring out exactly what happened last Friday. The owner of the farm, Gerhardus du Plessis, informed the police on the previous night that Meniére and Jardel may be in possession of illegal firearms.
A warrant was obtained and the next day four police officials went to the house along with Du Plessis' sons, Jaen en Cobus.
Liziwe Mtshinga, the Northern Cape deputy provincial commissioner, said on Thursday the events are being investigated internally. She wasn't able to answer any questions such as how many police officials were armed and whether they were wearing bulletproof vests or not.
On Thursday afternoon 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 had qualified as a medical doctor in France and that he worked previously at two Johannesburg hospitals.