Fugitives seemed demonic

2011-01-19 00:00

SUTHERLAND — The French couple who shot dead a policeman on Friday on the farm Hardie, about 24 km outside Sutherland, and wounded another had apparently became stranger by the day and even seemed “demonic”.

Philippe Meniére (60) shot student Constable Jacob Boleme (27) at point-blank range. His partner Agnes Jardel (55) wounded Warrant Officer Glenwall du Toit (42) in the back as he and two colleagues tried to flee.

The four police officers had a warrant to search for illegal firearms.

Apparently Meniére and Jardel were members of the Ramtha cult, which originated in the U.S., and tried to involve the farm owner and his family in the cult.

The owner, Gerhardus du Plessis, wanted them off the farm because he began to fear for his family’s safety, his daughter-in-law Jolene du Plessis said yesterday.

She said they pestered her father-in-law to build an underground shelter for them. “According to the Ramtha cult, the world will end in 2012. They believed they had to stockpile at least two years’ food supplies.

“My father-in-law let them stay on the farm for free, but later they were dissatisfied with everything,” said Jolene.

“They withdrew from society, but still fattened up on society’s coffers.

“At our wedding two years ago they kept talking about the ‘third eye’. That made us feel uncomfortable. They regularly held trance music dance festivals on the farm, played memory games and practised telepathy. They wore black capes and Agnes had a black cat.”

Jolene said the Meniéres know the farm well. “For the past 10 years they lived here in isolation without electricity, cellphones or computers.”

“They’re used to surviving,” said Cobus du Plessis, the oldest son. “The cult and their lifestyle made them tough.”

“No one in town knew them since they almost never went to town over the past four years,” Jolene said.

“It’s only our family who knew a little bit about them. Cobus and I often visited the French couple on the farm.

“We talked about philosophy with them. They are intelligent people and had interesting perspectives, not all of which we agreed with.

“I was never really comfortable around Philippe. I found him intimidating. It was as if he was constantly trying to read my thoughts.

“I often chatted to Agnes and went walking in the veld with her. She told me a little bit about her work in the advertising industry.

“She’s a very creative person. I always felt that she was starved for company.”

According to Jolene, Jardel used to be a beautiful woman. “Two years ago at our wedding she was all over the dance floor.

“They both have dark eyes, which have become very intense over the past two years. They started avoiding us more and more. The deeper they were sucked into the cult, the more isolated they became.

“My father-in-law was worried about them because they were getting thinner, as if they had no food. He offered to help them find work, but they didn’t want his help. They didn’t help out on the farm either.

“Philippe once said intelligent people don’t have to work.”

The police suspect that the couple are hiding in the inhospitable Roggeveld mountains near Sutherland.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hendrik Swart, police spokesperson for the Northern Cape, said yesterday in Kimberley, “We suspect they’re still in the area, which stretches across a few thousand square kilometres.

“We’re still searching the area where they fled, since they wouldn’t have gone far on foot. The search will also include neighbouring farms, where there are several empty houses.”

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