'She didn't mean to kill herself': Heartbroken dad's grief after daughter dies in deadly 'game'

By Kim Abrahams
04 July 2017

“Parents need to find out if their kids are involved in this game. It just takes one second too long and then it’s too late.”

Nothing could have prepared him for the scene that awaited him at his daughter’s flat on that sunny Saturday afternoon.

When her boyfriend had called in a panic, telling Kevin Moss he had to come to Jodi’s home near the Cape Town city centre right away, he’d thought it was a practical joke.

But when he arrived, yellow police tape cordoned off the area. Paramedics darted around and police forensics combed the scene while nosy neighbours talked in whispers: Jodi Moss (20) had accidentally killed herself.

“It was like a scene from a horror movie,” Kevin says from his home in the leafy suburb of Edgemead, Cape Town, which he shares with his girlfriend Gaby Hattingh and five-year-old son from his second marriage, Diago.

Read more: Man arrested after creating a suicide game to ‘cleanse society’

Family pictures adorn the walls of his beautiful home, displaying a happy family with precious memories. It’s hard to believe tragedy struck the Moss household less than a month ago.

But Kevin is certain of one thing – Jodi had never meant to take her life.

His beautiful, bubbly daughter died in a ‘game’ of asphyxiation gone horribly wrong.

“People won’t admit how common this is,” Kevin, director of a luxury holiday accommodation in Cape Town, warns.

Kevin Moss expresses his concern and distress at how common the game is. PICTURE: Peet Mocke Kevin Moss expresses his concern and distress at how common the game is. PICTURE: Peet Mocke

Asphyxiation involves depriving someone of oxygen until they pass out. It is commonly done by choking or tying a rope around the individual’s neck. Once the person regains consciousness, the rush of oxygen to the brain puts them on a high, comparable to a feeling of euphoria.

And it seems it was exactly that – a moment too long – that claimed the life of his precious girl.

Read more: 11-year-old boy kills himself after ‘girlfriend’s’ Facebook suicide prank

“I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I kept thinking of Jodi’s life; taking stock of what she had achieved at every age of her life,” he says.

“I guess grieving comes in waves. Today you’re fine, tomorrow you’re busy driving and then suddenly it hits you.”

Jodi was an up-and-coming model. PICTURE: Supplied Jodi was an up-and-coming model. PICTURE: Supplied

It's only been a few weeks since Jodi’s boyfriend, Jason Kuttel (28), discovered Jodi’s pale body on a mattress in her room, the pink belt from her favourite pink dressing gown still tangled around her neck.

In the early hours of 20 May, the up-and-coming model was alone in her room, texting her agent about her upcoming shoots that weekend.

Jodi, who was signed to Force Artist Management, is thought to have placed a mattress between her cupboard doors, strategically positioning it below the metal railing.

She then took the belt from her pink gown, tied it around her neck and knotted it to the railing.

Read more: Parents left fuming after pupils are tasked with writing their own suicide notes

Twelve hours later, her unsuspecting boyfriend arrived at her flat. It wasn’t unusual for Jodi to sleep late, so he wasn’t worried.

He found her lifeless body still hanging halfway on the metal pole, the bottom part of her body resting on the mattress. He pulled her down and immediately called her father.

Kevin believes the mattress was positioned with the intention of cushioning her fall, indicating that this wasn’t suicide.

“This was a pure accident. She didn’t want to die, she was happy,” Kevin says firmly.

Jodi and Kevin smiling around the lunch table. PICTURE: Supplied Jodi and Kevin smiling around the lunch table. PICTURE: Supplied

It’s clear he’s still trying to understand and come to terms with her sudden death.

Jodi had a troubled childhood, her grieving father admits. He and her mother had divorced when Jodi just seven years old. Kevin doesn’t elaborate but reveals that his daughter had a strained relationship with her mother.

“Jodi wanted nothing to do with her mother. There were lots of issues and even her psychologist recommended she break contact with her.”

Jodi was bullied relentlessly during her schooling years and she’d started cutting herself. She went to Herzlia High School, a private school in Cape Town until 2011. In 2012, she moved to Bloemfontein to attend Eunice High School, where she lived at the boarding school’s hostel and she’d seemed happier.

But at the tender age of 14, the then-dark-haired girl started experimenting with the deadly game of asphyxiation, making videos of her and her friends as they stopped themselves from breathing and then passed out instantly.

Kevin had had no idea his daughter was playing with fire like this. But after her death, he found the videos on her laptop.

One of the eerie clips shows Jodi still dressed in her school clothes, alone in her room. She takes what looks like a pair pajama pants, ties them around her neck and then tries to asphyxiate herself in the white cupboard behind her. She tries several times, but fail.

The clip hides her face but her voice is clearly audible as she speaks to the camera, promising she would try again soon.

AppleMark Kevin shows videos he found on Jodi's laptop of her playing the game alone in her room. PICTURE: Peet Mocke

Kevin shows videos he found on Jodi's laptop of her playing the game alone in her room.

The family is awaiting toxicology reports, but a bottle of alcohol found in her room gives reason to believe that Jodi might have been intoxicated.

Scrolling through his cell phone, Kevin comes across pictures showing a smiling Jodi as she sits in business class on an aeroplane next to the family’s domestic worker, Shafieque, whom Jodi chose her as a travel buddy.

The picture is from her matric year, he explains, just before a family trip to Durban.

“I made a deal with Jodi: If she could obtain certain results in her matric exams I would fly her business class to Durban. I didn’t really think she’d achieve those results but she did.

“While I was eating my cold breakfast at the airport’s Wimpy, she was sending me these cheeky selfies from her spacious seat in business class,” he says with a nostalgic laugh.

Read more: Little girl begs for justice after mom’s suicide – by offering up her piggy bank

“Her death was so pointless,” he suddenly says seriously. “There are times I’m angry at her for cutting her life short with such a stupid game.

“But with her story, we can inform parents, teens and maybe even save lives.

“Perhaps Jodi’s death was a gift from her – at her expense.”

IT'S NOT A GAME

What it is – engaging in the ‘game’ of asphyxiation means to deliberately deprive oneself of oxygen. There is also erotic asphyxiation, where a couple engaging in sexual activity aim to intensify an orgasm by choking each other. Autoerotic asphyxiation is when an individual is masturbating on their own and cuts oxygen to their lungs by choking themselves.

Why they do it – In his book, The Relativity of Deviance, US author John Curra explains: "The carotid arteries (on either side of the neck) carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain. When these are compressed, as in strangulation or hanging, the sudden loss of oxygen to the brain and the accumulation of carbon dioxide can increase feelings of giddiness, light-headedness, and pleasure, all of which will heighten masturbatory sensations."

Dangers – side-effects include cardiac arrest and even permanent brain damage.

Symptoms to look out for and possible prevention – Although it’s been around since the 1700s (when it was performed on men to ‘help’ with erectile dysfunction) asphyxiation and the dangers of participating in it aren't widely spoken of. They might not be engaging in it for sexual pleasure, but speak to your child about the risks asphyxiation poses to their life. Other signs to look out for could be marks appearing on their neck, or a sudden and unexplained need for extra privacy.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES: VICE.COM, WIKIPEDIA.ORG, MEDICINENET.COM

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