Piet Byleveld 'brought light to dark situations'

2017-06-01 18:36
The family of Piet Byleveld saying their final goodbyes. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

The family of Piet Byleveld saying their final goodbyes. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Johannesburg - Piet Byleveld was no ordinary cop.

He was a policeman of the highest quality and integrity who brought light to dark situations. 

These were the words of those close to the top cop at his memorial service on Thursday morning at the Rosebank Union Church. 

The public memorial service was led by Pastor Natalie Strydom who said the funeral bed was actually a "beautiful thing". 

"It is a place where you surrender everything to God." 

Byleveld – otherwise known as Piet Byl - died at the Life Wilgeheuwel Hospital in Roodepoort last Wednesday.

He had stage four cancer in both lungs and it had spread to his spine, adrenal gland, and liver. In the days leading to his death, doctors had kept him sedated. They also stopped all treatment

Byleveld retired from the police in 2010, after 38 years of service. It was said he had a 99% success rate.

He was married to Elize, who would wake him with a cup of coffee each morning.

He was a grandfather, a brother, a colleague and a friend who you would have a beer with, the mourners heard. People found comfort in him. 

Family members of the "super cop" comforted each other as they sobbed softly in the church.

Two photos of Byleveld took centre stage in the church. The stage was filled with flowers. 

His memorial programme was filled with handwritten letters from his wife, grandchildren, friends and other close relatives.

"My heart is broken into pieces. I am looking for you around every corner. You place in our home is quiet and empty. Your voice and laugh is quiet. Thank you for all your love, patience... You have a special place in my heart," the letter from his wife read. 


'A policeman of the highest integrity and quality'

A letter from his grandchildren read: "We all know 'oupa' Piet died, but Jesus needed him and he is in our hearts. We miss him a lot, but we all remember what he did for us." 

Elize recalled the last moments before Piet breathed his last breath. 

"My angel, you may cry, but don't keep your emotions in, otherwise you will bottle it up." 

Strydom said one of the criminals that Byleveld had arrested back in the day had been in a bed next to him when he was admitted to hospital. 

She said he had told Byleveld's wife that he knew the man and that it brought back bad memories, however, they later reached out to each other.

A former colleague of Byleveld, who served under him in the South African Police Service, Walter Hirzebruch, said he would always remember the top cop.

"He was a policeman of the highest integrity and quality. Once he sunk his teeth into a case, he would never let go until every last suspect is arrested."

Hirzebruch said Byleveld always went out of his way to solve cases and showed many compassion and warmth. 

"Piet, you have lived your life to serve law, order and justice, and for this we thank you."

He never had children of his own, but had cared for Elize's children as his own.

'Charlie Mike 5 has signed off'

The mourners heard that Byleveld loved his grandchildren "to bits". 

"In our hearts and souls, you have never left us. We hear your voice resonate within us. We thank you for the 38 years of service. Brigadier Byleveld, Charlie Mike 5 has signed off," Hirzebruch said.

Advocate Herman Broodryk, who did the tribute, highlighted some of the important cases the top cop had solved. 

Byleveld’s skill led to the arrest of the Nasrec killer, Lazarus Mazingane. He was sentenced to 17 life terms and more than 700 years in prison for 16 murders and 22 rapes committed between 1993 and 1998.

He solved the murders of Leigh Matthews and Pretoria schoolgirl Sheldean Human.

He caught Cedric Maake‚ also known as the Wemmer Pan Killer or the Hammer Killer. Maake raped 14 women and murdered 27 between 1996 and 1997. His victims ranged from a 15-year-old to a 74-year-old, and included men and women. He was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 1 340 years behind bars.

Mine dump serial child killer Sipho Dube Mhlangathi, who was caught in 2004, became Byleveld’s first escapee.

He walked out of Wynberg Magistrate’s Court wearing clothes Byleveld had lent him for the trial. He was eventually found hiding in prison under a false name‚ and on a different charge. He received 10 life sentences and 114 years in jail.

'He could solve crimes that no one else could'

Broodryk said Byleveld was a man who never slept, and that he had the worst handwriting he had ever seen. He said Byleveld was always dressed in a famous black suit and lived off cigarettes, Grandpas and Coca-Cola. 

"Piet the man... believed in preparation, preparation, preparation, and as any advocate knows that is the recipe for success. He always remained calm in the witness box and never lost his temper," Broodryk said. 

A second lawyer who worked alongside Bylevend, advocate Yolinda Freimond, said he lived for his work and that it was a pleasure listening to him in the witness bock

"He was a man of justice and fairness. Piet was a man of detail and had the ability to treat everyone with respect," Freimond said. 

Today was about giving back to him what he gave to us, respect and time, Freimond said. 

Freimond thanked Byleveld's wife Elize for introducing Piet to the "other side" of life. 

Freimond silently broke into tears and said: "We greet you today, but I want to make sure that there is an other side of this heartbreaking day." 

South African actor Ian Roberts, from the Kalahari Orkes, performed one of his songs called Byleveld. He said he had only met Byleveld once, and that it was remarkable. 

"He could solve crimes that no one else could. I felt that he solved cases that bothered me a lot. He brought light to dark situations," Roberts said.

Read more on:    piet byleveld  |  johannesburg

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