On Monday morning, three year-old Christopher van der Merwe kissed and hugged his dad, Carl, goodbye when he was dropped off at crèche.
At lunchtime, Carl van der Merwe tucked into a packet of chips, saving half of it to share with Christopher later that afternoon — but it was not to be.
Christopher was mauled by two pitbulls at the home of a Glenwood woman who was taking care of him after crèche. The child later died at Grey’s hospital.
A heartbroken Carl, a mechanic with Magma Security, said his family was devastated by the death of their only son. His wife, Chantelle, a human resources manager at a Hayfields supermarket, and 13-year-old daughter Chante, were inconsolable.
“He was at the house in Glenwood as they were looking after him once he finished crèche. He got dropped off there as both my wife and I are working. They are our friends and offered to assist us. It was their dogs. We don’t hold any grudge against them,” said Carl.
Recalling the events that led to his son’s death, Carl said he had finished work and was attending to the vehicle of a woman from his church when he got a call informing him that Christopher had been attacked by the dogs.
“I rushed through traffic to get to the house in Glenwood and when I got there, my heart just dropped. All I saw were police, ambulance, and a street full of people. I realised then that this was something serious and not just something small that had happened.
“I got hold of my wife, tried to console her by saying I was at the scene.
“Everyone tried to stop me from going onto the property, but I fought through. It was the worst thing I have ever seen.
“My little boy was just lying there, covered in blood, with paramedics all trying to help him … putting up a drip, sedating him, stabilising him, bandaging him.
“I followed the ambulance to the hospital and was there until 1.30 am, pacing in the corridors, crying, praying, asking God to show mercy to my child.
“At around 1.30 am, the doctors told me that he had passed away but that he was the bravest, strongest boy they had seen who tried so very hard to fight for his life. Even the doctors were emotional and broke down.
“There were too many complications they said — severe head injuries, a puncture wound to his throat, it was difficult to save him,” said Carl.
Describing his son as a “live-wire” who endeared himself to those who met him, Carl said Christopher had “crept into the hearts of everyone”.
With regards to the attack, Carl said he had been informed that Christopher had been dropped off at the house after crèche, and the woman taking care of him had fetched him from the gate shortly before the incident occurred.
“He was about half a metre from the door, she said, and about to enter the house, when the dogs pounced on him.
“He had been going to the house for about a week before the incident and had gone there for socialising but the dogs were always on a leash.
“On Monday, when Christopher had arrived there — they were not on a leash. I don’t hold any grudge against them. It’s not their fault.
“Everything has happened for a reason — and the reason is to draw us all closer to God. I’ve come to terms with his death,” said Carl.
He said he won’t be pursuing charges against the family. Carl said funeral arrangements for Christopher were being hampered due to the nationwide undertakers’ strike.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joshua Maistry said that when the K9 dog unit attended the scene, the one pitbull was attacking the child and another ran to attack the officers.
Due to both dogs’ aggression and attack on the police officers, who urgently needed to rescue the child, they were both shot at the scene.