I’ll never forget

2018-11-19 11:46
Stephanie Saville.

Stephanie Saville.

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I’ll never forget her.

It’s hard to believe she’d be 18 now, writing matric this year.

I keep a photograph of her in a folder on my PC’s desktop and every once in a while, I open it and look at her. She’s around eight or nine years old. She really has the most beautiful face. She’s smiling, a little reservedly perhaps. Maybe she’s a little shy. She has these big, beautiful eyes and I can’t take mine off her.

In this moment, smiling for the camera, she radiates hope and promise. She’s definitely the apple of her parents’ eyes. It’s easy to see that.

I’ve grown to love her, over these years. Sometimes I stumble across her photograph by chance. Sometimes I actively seek it out. Just to say hello, and to reassure her, and me, that she is remembered beyond the circle of her family and friends. I always take the time to look at her face, and remember her, who I think she might have been.

But it always has the same effect on me.

I wish I didn’t have to get to know her like this. I wish I had known her for real in a safe, happy place.

What I do know is that she was a bubbly girl who loved her family.

She loved reading, watching TV and just being a kid.

So maybe, if she’d grown up she may have been a magazine journalist. She may have been a TV star. Oh, the possibilities!

She may have had a quiet life, living here. Or she may have left the Midlands to go further afield. But we’ll never know.

Sometimes when I look at her, I become quite emotional. It’s the physical response to an emotion I don’t know what to do with. It’s fury and sadness rolled into one. It’s the horror and the loss. It’s the knowledge that our society, or at least some malevolent members of it, let her down in the worst possible way.

Ex-Witness journalist Nathi Olifant said the other day that a trip to a small Midlands town often reminds him of this sweet girl. Me too. I had sent him her picture, so we could remember together this time.

She died in a lonely piece of veld in that town at the age of nine after terrible torture at the hands of a monster who snatched her as she was going home from school. 

Nathi covered her story for The Witness back then. We still talk about it. We still remember. We still shed tears.

Her killer was eventually caught by veteran detectives — Inspectors Derek Coetzee and Mebra Nzimande. Thank goodness for these dedicated men, who stopped the monster from maybe striking again.

A serial rapist and killer, he is in jail, away from us. I hope he’s hating every moment of every day there.

Each year we make a big thing of remembering those who have fallen in war. We express gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice and that’s good. It’s the least we can do, those of us whose lives have been bettered by the call to arms and what the soldiers did to try to prevent tyranny and oppression.

But, thinking about the yearly rituals that take place, I was struck by a thought.

What if, once a year, there was a ceremony where we paid tribute to and properly remembered those who have died at the hands of criminals.

We could light a candle for them and their bereft families.

We could remember this little girl and the many, many, many others like her, and honour her memory. Properly.

It’s not much, but maybe it would be something.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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