'Our son was bullied'

2008-08-21 09:11

Johannesburg - The parents of Morne Harmse, accused of stabbing a fellow pupil to death with a sword, in their first public statement since the incident, said their son was a victim of bullying.

In an exclusive statement to Beeld newspaper, Machiel and Liza Harmse said the 18-year-old was small for his age and had been bullied throughout his school career.

The statement reads as follows:

"We firstly want to convey our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Pretorius family. We realise you have lost what you loved most due to the actions of our child. We are terribly sorry and wish so deeply that these were not the circumstances and that we could change it.

"Morné was very small and skinny for his age group. Until Monday morning, we never thought he would be able to do something like this. We are a very close family and we raised our children strictly, but with a lot of love.

"Because of his build, Morné was regularly bullied during his formative years. Where we could, we stood up for him and on occasion spoke to the bullies, but also accepted it as a part of life. During a visit to Morné (on Tuesday), we saw that we had never realised the real impact of the physical and emotional abuse on Morné.

"He explained to us that he felt so powerless and worthless that he wanted to make a statement.

Wanted to 'scare'

"He went to school with the intention of hurting and scaring 'them' - it wasn't aimed at a specific person and he didn't mean to kill anyone. He wanted to vent his built-up frustration and feelings of powerlessness. He wanted to be someone.

"Morné was a very small baby at birth and in life we got to know him as quiet and obedient.

"We regret to say that it appears that Morné experimented with Satanism and that it gave him a kind of protection for his psyche. It was as if he wanted to escape to the idea that he would have certain powers, which would then give him a way to protect himself.

"His words to us were: 'When I put on the mask, everything went dead quiet and my body started moving. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't.

"He also mentioned that the matric exam put a lot of pressure on him. Although he had never failed a grade, he was terrified of failing.

'Pray for us'

"We suspect a combination of stress, poor self-image, bad influences and an absolute feeling of powerlessness drove our child to this terrible deed. Morné was terribly disorientated during our visit (in the cells) and we only realised (on Tuesday) that someone had died. He could basically not remember anything about what had happened.

"Two lives were destroyed by these incomprehensible events...

"We call on all parents to have a proper conversation with their children to ensure everything is all right. One is inclined to attribute certain personality changes to physical development but it isn't always the case.

"We ask that you please pray for us, the Pretorius family and everyone who was affected by this. We also want to use the opportunity to thank everyone for their support.

"We call on people not to judge us. Please give us the time to pick up the pieces of our lives. Thank you."