'I am not ashamed of my child' - Stella murderer Xander Bylsma's mother

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Mercia Bylsma and her son, Xander, during an earlier court appearance.
Mercia Bylsma and her son, Xander, during an earlier court appearance.
PHOTO: Deaan Vivier/Netwerk24
  • Convicted murderer Xander Bylsma's mother says she is not ashamed of him.
  • Bylsma was handed two life sentences for murdering two teenage girls in a hostel in Stella, North West, in 2018.
  • His parents believe he is innocent and plan to appeal his conviction and sentence.


Convicted Stella murderer Xander Bylsma's mother says she is not ashamed of him.

"It's my child, God gave him to me. People look at me strangely when I say this, but I will not change my mind, because I am not ashamed of my child," a heartbroken Mercia Bylsma told Rapport.

Bylsma was given two life sentences in the North West High Court in Mahikeng on Friday after Judge Ronald Hendricks found him guilty on two counts of murder in February, News24 reported earlier.

The 21-year-old Bylsma's sentence followed an incident in which two girls – Marna Engelbrecht, 17, and Sharnelle Hough, 16 – were killed on Saturday, 26 May 2018.

Their lifeless bodies were found at the hostel at Hoërskool Stella in North West.

Hough's body was found hanging from a banister while Engelbrecht's body was found in a bathroom. He had strangled the girls and tried to make their deaths look like suicide.

In delivering his sentence on Friday, Hendricks said Bylsma had shown no remorse.

Hendricks said: 

Two young girls lost their lives. That makes these murders more aggravating – the fact that the girls were young. Your actions were disgusting. You showed no respect for them.

Believe in their son's innocence

Despite this, Bylsma's parents reportedly still believe in their son's innocence. Mercia and her ex-husband, Monté, are both former police officers.

Their divorce reportedly had a huge impact on Xander's social behaviour, the court heard.

Mercia told Rapport: "Of course we made mistakes, but we also just tried our best – the person described in that court is not my child."

According to her, she and Monté were just as sad about the girls' deaths.

After sentencing, Mercia reportedly waited in the parking lot behind the courthouse to say goodbye to her son. However, the vehicle that transported Xander to prison drove by so quickly she could only shout "Bye, Seuna!" before she broke down in tears.

Bylsma's parents reportedly want to appeal the verdict. "We want to see the real culprit in court and also want the murder to be solved," Monté told Rapport.

'I will always hate him'

Hough's mother earlier said she would always hate Bylsma for what he did to her daughter.

In an interview with Huisgenoot, Sonja Hough said she was happy Bylsma had been found guilty, but it had brought her no solace.

Sharnelle and Xander had been dating for a year before breaking up about a month before the murders.

"I hate him for what he did to my child. But I don't harbour the kind of anger of wanting to kill him. That is just the kind of person I am, but I will always hate him," Sonja Hough reportedly said.

She told the magazine: 

I don't worry about life anymore. I feel nothing, because all I used to worry about was my child. And now she is no longer here. It has made me a horrible person who doesn't care about anyone else any longer.

State prosecutor Johan Smit told Rapport the Bylsmas' appeal would be lodged this week. "They have the right to do so, and then it's up to the court to decide," he reportedly said.

Director of Public Prosecutions in North West, advocate Moipone Noko, welcomed Bylsma's conviction and commended the prosecution team for a successful prosecution.

She also expressed her dismay at the increase in gender-based violence and femicide.

"I really hope that this sentence bears a deterrent effect to would-be perpetrators of the same offence as those that [Bylsma] has been convicted of," Noko said.

 - Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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