Mourners pay tribute to slain Neighbourhood Watch member who just wanted to help

2019-06-28 08:19
Ignatius "Ignis" van Rooyen (Memorial photograph)

Ignatius "Ignis" van Rooyen (Memorial photograph)

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Mourners have paid tribute to slain Milnerton Ridge Neighbourhood Watch member Ignatius van Rooyen after he was killed in a tragic shooting last week.

"I'm going on patrol tonight to find criminals and protect people."

These were the last words van Rooyen told his close friend, Rob Peche, last Friday.

Mere hours later, there was a frantic knock at his door with a breathless message blurted out: "Accident! The plumber!"

With no other details, Peche grabbed a jacket and sped to the scene with the man who had broken the news to him, hoping against hope that nothing serious had happened.

With a Cape storm raging, they raced to Freedom Way in the light industrial zone of Montague Gardens in Cape Town.

But when Peche saw the blue flashing lights of the police vehicles as they approached the scene, he knew to expect the worst.

'I saw his safety boots and I knew it was him'

"We arrived at Freedom Way. At that point as we turned the corner, I knew that Ignis [as he was known] had fought for freedom and lost.

"I saw his safety boots and I knew it was him. I stood in the rain with absolutely no purpose," said Peche during a memorial service on Thursday.

Family spokesperson and sister, Chantelle told News24 on Friday that Ignatius was not killed as a result of any patrolling, but was on his way to the mall. He was more than likely a victim of crime himself.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said a murder investigation was underway after Van Rooyen was shot in the chest at about 18:45 on Friday.

"The victim died on the scene due to his injuries. Circumstances surrounding this incident are under investigation with no arrests so far." 

Peche said looking at his friend, and the bakkie with the door still open, he did not know what happened, and did not know what to do.

"I picked up his hat and his sunglasses off the street."

Later he tried to get Van Rooyen's car home, but the battery was flat from the headlights being on so long.

He said the police were very helpful, and everybody tried to push the heavy vehicle to get it going again.

'I stood in the rain, crying as I called her'

When they could not, as though to rail against what was happening, Peche continued trying to push the heavy vehicle by himself, in the rain, until he could no more.

A tow truck driver, whose name he does not know, arrived to help and he said that was what Van Rooyen would do - arrive when you needed him the most to help.

Breaking the news to Van Rooyen's partner, Cherelle, was difficult, as she was out, and he was reduced to doing what he had not wanted to do - tell her over the phone.

"I stood in the rain, holding his hat, crying as I called her," said Peche. 

Van Rooyen's death has been deeply mourned by the network of neighbourhood watches that volunteer their time to walk the streets helping in times of danger, or as one anecdote about Ignis went, to rescue a cat and her kittens. 

Earlier on Thursday, Western Cape Safety MEC Albert Fritz said there were about 50 000 neighbourhood watch members who helped bolster the police and law enforcement's efforts to curb crime.

A patrol of honour was also held for him on Tuesday night, with around 156 vehicles involved and City of Cape Town Safety MMC JP Smith present.

Last goodbyes

Heartfelt letters from family members were read at Van Rooyen's memorial.

Staffers at the all-rounder handyman's business, and from other neighbourhood watches paid tribute to the man they called "Shrek" for his love of green, the green Monster drinks he consumed, and his forthrightness.

To round off the memorial a slideshow of photographs accompanied by music such as Kings of Leon was screened, and to prevent environmental damage, balloons were released inside the hall of the Theo Marais sports grounds, instead of outside. 

Pictures of Van Rooyen had been placed on the wall around the hall, and candles were lit in his memory.

Members of the police and law enforcement officials also formed a guard of honour at the exit to the hall.

*Note: The headline of the article has been changed at the request of the grieving family.

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