'Damn farm cost Deon his life'

2005-11-30 23:26

Cape Town - Opera star Deon van der Walt apparently was on the point of evicting his parents from his wine farm, Veenwouden, when he was shot dead in his bedroom on Tuesday.

Van der Walt's agent in Germany, Lore Shulz, said he was at loggerheads with his father, Sarel "Charles" van der Walt, 78, about the way the Veenwouden estate was being managed.

She said: "I haven't any doubt that the arguments about the farm led to Deon's death."

It is suspected that the family row was what led to the presumed murder and suicide in which both men died.

Shulz said on Wednesday: "He said he wanted to buy them another house to live in.

He wanted to spend more time in South Africa, but he didn't want to live with his parents in that house.

"It was his farm, but he didn't feel at home there."

Police spokesperson captain Randall Stoffels said Sheila van der Walt found the bodies of her son and her husband in a bedroom on the farm on Tuesday.

'That damn farm'

Van der Walt sen had a single gunshot wound in his temple and his son had been shot twice in the chest, said Stoffels.

Shulz said she had known Deon van der Walt since 1991 and "often had to listen to his problems with his father and that damn farm".

"Time and again, he said he had to rush back to South Africa to iron out problems with his father.

"At one stage, he was terribly upset about an issue of dubious bookkeeping.

"He even went so far as to appoint another manager on the farm.

"He wanted to keep his family affairs and business interests separate, but this didn't work either.

"Last year, he called in mediators and attorneys to help settle the dispute with his father.

"He sought a positive solution which would make everyone happy, but in the end he was the unfortunate one.

"I don't know what happened on Tuesday, but I haven't a shred of doubt that the arguments about the farm led to Deon's death.

"I don't think he realised the danger he was in," said Shulz.

On Tuesday, the family's attorney, Mike Lochner, dismissed rumours about the singer's relationship with his father as "absolute nonsense".

'We are all devastated'

Asked about this again on Wednesday, he said the family would comment on the matter in a press statement.

The statement has not been made available yet and Lochner could no longer be reached on his phone.

Shulz said the news of Van der Walt's death had stunned his circle of friends overseas.

"We are all devastated. He was a good friend and a wonderful singer.

"His last performance was in March this year at the Zurich opera house," she said.

Although he had lived for many years in Zurich, Van der Walt also owned of the wine estate in Noorder Paarl.

He bought it in 1988 and named it after the Netherlands town from which the first Van der Walts emigrated to South Africa.

His father managed the farm and his brother, Marcel, a former professional golfer, made the estate's award-winning wines.

Operatic 'grand slam'

Sapa reports that Van der Walt was one of South Africa's most successful singers and a leading international tenor, having performed in all the major opera houses in Europe.

Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan said Van der Walt was the first South African tenor to complete the operatic "grand slam" by performing at New York's Metropolitan, Milan's La Scala, Vienna's State Opera and London's Covent Garden.

"He had a special gift; he was sensitive and expressive as an artist," said Jordan in a statement.

"Those who knew him speak of his generosity and kindness."