A lingering uncertainty

2014-12-19 00:00

FIONA Harvey’s family home, set in a leafy grove in one of Pietermaritzburg’s premier suburbs, stands as a monument today that the fabric of the city was torn.

The front garden where Fiona would ­gambol with her dogs is bathed in morning sunlight.

A precast concrete wall stands stark against the lush green verge, and an iron gate that she would have walked through on her last jaunt to the café stands tilted on a hinge.

Long after the family moved away from their home of 30 years, the presence of the trauma that played out still lingers.

Sarah Carlisle bought the house from the Harvey family in 2003.

She said that Fiona’s disappearance and the sentiment that remained years after she went missing continued to mark the neighbourhood.

“When I looked at the house and the ­garden it seemed like time had stopped here,” she said.

“It was as if nothing had changed and there were elements of disrepair because I am sure their minds were otherwise occupied. What happened was absolutely terrible.”

Carlisle said when she and her husband had moved in, they had battled to shake an eerie aura that pervaded within the walls.

“If I am honest, we got a priest in to bless the house when we moved in.”

The room in which Fiona grew up has had little changed, and the sturdy timber floor sounds hollow underfoot.

Neighbour Phillip Kretzman said when Fiona disappeared the activity in the neighbourhood was frenetic.

“There was so much going on and the police came and searched all the properties around the neighbourhood, including ours.

“It was incredibly upsetting for everyone and also very confusing because she just ­disappeared and it took a long time for people to acknowledge that she was not coming back.”

He said her disappearance had changed the tenor of the community.

“It was a conversation piece in the area for a long time and in the community, there were people who rallied around the family and tried to support them. There were also people who tried to dominate the public space more than they should have,” he said.

“Fiona’s mother went on to work for me after that and she at that stage had taken solace in religion and she in herself was content that Fiona had died but the family was never in a good place. For a mother, the pain never dulls.

“It left a mark on Pietermaritzburg and there has never been any finality and the big issue here is the lingering uncertainty. As time passes, it receives less attention and it has never been concluded,” he said.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za

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