R.I.P. Rosemary Theron, found murdered.

2013-10-08 04:31

A month after Rosemary Theron was snatched off Clovelly Road just outside of Fish Hoek in Cape Town, bundled into a silver car by an unknown man, or men, I was contacted by a facebook friend who asked if I'd attend a meeting at the local police station and feed back to her. She wanted to know whether or not police were taking Rosemary's disappearance seriously.

Councillor Felicity Purchase was there, and several friends, as were Rosemary’s mother, Denise, and her sister, Angelique. The family were, as you can imagine, distraught. They feared the worst and understandably sought reassurance that police were doing everything in their power to find ‘Rosie’. Without going into details, I left the station feeling the full tragedy of the disappearance – that Rosemary was loved, that she was now gone, that the two daughters of nine and eighteen, coping bravely without their mother, had been cheated of her presence. The police, I was satisfied, were doing what they could.

Rumours were flying about as to who might have orchestrated the snatch – that is, if it wasn’t a random crime. Possibly an ex-boyfriend was involved, or a new mystery man Rosemary’d started seeing. There was speculation as to whether the Nigerians would use her in the sex trade at her (advanced) age of thirty-nine; there were fears that she was being held against her will and time was of the essence if she was to be found alive; a psychic alleged that her body was below Chapman’s Peak, that a guy called Stephen (could it be Rosie’s brother?) had been involved in her killing.

No matter how outlandish, every option was considered, including, it must be conceded, the possibility that Rosemary had just up and left her life at Clovelly to start afresh somewhere else.  This could not be ruled out as this ‘quintessential flower child’, an ethereal beauty who lived unconventionally, had in the past ventured from home on a whim.

Angelique however, remained adamant that this was not the case.  It was agreed that Rosemary Theron, who entertained as a clown, who painted faces and walked on stilts and made children laugh, ‘would never leave her children’. Though Social Services was keeping an eye on them, it was mooted that ‘these brave kids of hers, now all alone in the world’, should be fostered immediately. It never for a moment entered anyone’s head that the daughters, or one of them, might in any way at all be involved. Matricide, I am absolutely certain, did not cross anyone’s mind.

Every avenue was explored to find Rosemary.  Not only were members of the public holding meetings and asking for information, but investigative greats Piet Byleveld and Micki Pistorius were contacted and asked for assistance. The most intriguing lead was the fact that she’d used her cell phone the day after the disappearance. Or someone else had. The mystery deepened.

As the weeks went by, I became a little obsessed with trawling the Net for news.  I followed Rosemary’s facebook page, returning again and again to read the heartfelt messages posted by her tribe of supporters. They called her an Angel, an inspiration, they loved her and wished her back in their lives.

I went back again and again to the missing persons sites at which her poster featured. I became fearful. I did not want my daughters walking the streets. God forbid that anything like this should ever happen to either of them. ‘You better understand,’ I told myself, ‘that this kind of thing is a reality for too many.’

Adults and children disappear from street corners, and from their own homes. They disappear en route to work, or coming home from hospital or from school. One minute they’re there, the next they’re gone, too often never to be seen or heard from again. It’s heartbreaking to scroll down the posters and to read the mundane circumstances of their disappearances. Yet through the anguish and desperation suffered by family and friends when a loved one goes missing, they never give up hope.

There is sometimes good news. Runaways are reunited with parents; sometimes people return of their own accord; sometime vulnerable people suffering mental illness stray, and are thankfully found. But in most instances a body is recovered at the side of the road or in a morgue or buried under brush and sand.

The R.I.P. deceased section of any missing persons’ site is the most poignant. Whether by suicide, crime, or accident, it signifies the tragic end of the story to which these snippets attest:

It is with great sadness that we inform you that the body of Headman Khumalo (52) was found in a mortuary in Sebokeng, Gauteng. He was allegedly run over.

We received confirmation today that the DNA results showed that the body that was found is that of 16-year old Micaela Manneson.

It is with great sadness that we inform you that the body of Rachael Gomes (20) was FOUND in the Formula 1 hotel in Alberton. According to IOL news the police suspects suicide.

It is with great sadness that we inform you that the body of 2-year-old Rivoningo Hlungwane was found on a riverbank between the girl's home and the home of her grandparents. Police suspect that she drowned.

It is with great sadness that we inform you that Angelic Thompson (20) was found deceased, confirmed by Lydenburg SAPS. Her brother confessed to her murder.

Each post is accompanied by thanks to the thousands of people who’ve distributed flyers, who've called with tip-offs, who've helped in the searches. SAPS members are more often than not thanked for their hard work and dedication. And of course, deepest sympathy is extended to family and friends.

I knew it was inevitable that Rosemary’s body would be found. I knew she had to be dead. After six months, the only realistic outcome was to find her buried in a shallow grave. Yet when I heard the news, told to me by my daughter as I was washing dishes (Hey, mom, so sad, they found Rosemary’s body...), I felt my body sag. I felt a physical sensation of defeat. The desired miracle had not happened.

And in the next breath, my daughter broke the news of the allegations that it was Rosemary’s very own daughter, eighteen-year-old Phoenix Racing Cloud, who had played a part in the horrific finale. I literally reeled. This vicious twist hit like a slap to the side of the head. Not only was I affected by the fact that the inevitable had happened – her murder-  but to hear the appalling truth took me by complete surprise.  A mother never wants to face the viciousness and cruelty that a loved daughter might inflict on another person.

I thought of all the people who’d spent hours looking for Rosemary, the people who gave up time to attend meetings, put up posters and to spread the word in any way they could. I thought about all who’d held vigil, in spirit, for their dear friend.  Everything done was in vain and a waste of manpower. I admit to a certain flare up of anger that the search had been made a mockery of, and was proved a farce.

It’s been revealed that after a fight, Rosemary’s daughter, Phoenix, and the daughter’s boyfriend Kyle Maspero, also eighteen, under the influence of drugs, plotted to kill Rosemary. Whatever transpired on the night, it’s alleged that Phoenix hugged her mother and apologised - ‘Sorry for fighting’ - while Kyle came up from behind and strangled Rosemary with a rope. Did Phoenix look her mother in the eyes? It’s likely that Rosemary could not have fathomed that her teenage daughter and her boyfriend were capable of murder. Or would be capable of dragging her to a grave, leaving her wrapped in a pink blanket - to rot.

Of course there will be speculation as to how such a shocking killing is fuelled, whether by anger, abuse, a heightened state of emotional arousal or an altered state of consciousness.  The investigation will no doubt reveal more truths.

It was the accomplice who finally, with his guilty conscience playing on his nerves (or perhaps he acted out of fear that the same fate might befall him?) could not leave things hanging in the balance.  Twenty-year-old Godfrey Scheepers finally declared the shocking truth to the police, the tale as macabre as anything a crime fiction writer might construct.

As I write this, I’m aware that I’m grateful to all the people out there who go the extra mile to find the victims snatched from life, who work to ensure that there’s closure for desperate families, no matter how tragically the tale may end.

May Rosemary rest in peace. But the story is not yet over. May the family endure the scrutiny yet to come. And may we somehow make sense of this callous crime.

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