'Ex-boyfriend' appears in court for allegedly killing two girls at Stella hostel

2018-05-28 18:28
Sharnelle Hough and Marna Engelbrecht. (Netwerk24 via Instagram)

Sharnelle Hough and Marna Engelbrecht. (Netwerk24 via Instagram)

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As family, teachers and friends mourned the deaths of schoolgirls Marna Engelbrecht and Sharnelle Hough, a 19-year-old made his first appearance in the Vryburg Magistrate's Court on Monday for their alleged murders.

Police believed that Xander Bylsma had been dating Hough at some stage, and photos of them together on their social media accounts seemed to confirm this.

Originally no foul play was suspected when the two Hoerskool Stella Grade 11 pupils, aged 16 and 17, were found dead at the school's female hostel on Saturday morning.

READ: Ex-boyfriend arrested for alleged murder of two North West schoolgirls

The hostel matron found their bodies.

"Firstly, the matron found the body of the 17-year-old girl hanging from the rails of the staircase in the hostel. She alerted the school management and the police were summoned," said North West police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Amanda Funani at the time.

"Upon investigation, the police discovered the second body with a string around her neck at the hostel's bathroom."

Funani said a "thorough investigation" led to Bylsma's arrest.

His mother told Netwerk24 at court that the arrest of her only child, who had been good in academics and sport while still at school, had broken her.

The lanky teen, with dark curly hair, would be kept in custody until his next appearance on August 6.

In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon, staff at the girls' high school said they cherished the memories they had of the bubbly, smiling teens.

"We never thought for a moment that they would be taken away from us in such an unnecessary way," the post stated in Afrikaans.

"Our whole community is poorer and darker without your beautiful smiles."

READ: 2 pupils found dead, one 'hanging', another with a string around her neck

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga described the murders as "a tragedy".

Motshekga said she was "saddened by the senseless killing" of the two girls.

"It is deeply concerning that our young girls are dying in this manner," she said.

"This is truly a tragedy and shows as society, we need to work with our young boys in order to better equip them to effectively deal with relationship dynamics."

Motshekga said too many young women were killed at the hands of their boyfriends or ex-boyfriends.

"It is shocking and deeply disturbing," she said.

"We need to send out a strong message that the lives of our women and girls matter. We are not disposable and justice needs to deal harshly with anyone who takes the life of a woman or a girl in such a senseless manner, as in this case where the bright future of these two young girls has been prematurely stolen from them."

Motshekga called for a thorough investigation in the circumstances leading up to the incident and how the perpetrator had gained access to the girls' hostel.

"We need to see all stakeholders playing a role in ensuring that the integrated strategy for school safety is implemented to protect our [pupils] against perpetrators of violence as we have seen in this particular case and indeed others like it," she said.

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Read more on:    angie motshekga  |  gender violence  |  crime

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