Johann Nel: A lonely, unconfident boy, beset by trauma and comforted by guns, says criminologist

2008-11-17 00:00

Mafikeng — Johann Nel (19) never had any confidence in the world around him and his hobby was firearms.

Forensic criminologist Irma Labuschagne testified in the Mmabatho High Court yesterday that Nel has suffered several traumatic experiences since the age of six.

Family and friends have been tortured and murdered. Seven men attacked his brother Heinrich (23) in May 2001 on their farm outside Swartruggens.

Labuschagne said Nel felt he couldn’t share his feelings with his parents, Hennie (44) and Corrie Nel (49), or with his brother. He believed they did not understand him.

Labuschagne said the environment in which Nel grew up in did not bring him into contact with the outside world.

He was home-schooled by his mother from grade four to 11.

Labuschagne said his parents’ decision to take him out of school was “lamentable”. He had little interaction with children of his own age.

Nel showed signs of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, she testified. He would cut his nails and then measure every nail with a ruler to see that they were all of equal length. He would keep on tying and untying his shoelaces until they were tied in exactly the same way. These signs of anxiety became worse and worse.

He did not get out much, but when he did, he usually went target shooting at the shooting range.

He said that when he was shooting, he felt relieved and in control. “This is significant, because it showed he was feeling out of control. When he was shooting, he was in control and had a gun that was protecting him. He never talked about wanting to shoot people. It was always just target shooting,” Labuschagne testified.

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