The nightmare returned night after night. She could see her daughter floating above the water in a wedding gown. Then the bottom of the gown suddenly caught alight and she had to watch helplessly as the flames engulfed her precious child.
Ronel du Plessis was troubled by this dream for ages but in the weeks leading up to her daughter’s death it was more intense than ever. Every day she woke up fearing something terrible would happen to her child.
Then it did. In March 2008 Nell-Marie Lyon (then 22) sustained terrible burns when someone allegedly poured petrol over her and set it alight. She suffered in excruciating pain for more than two weeks before succumbing to her burns and her former boyfriend, Gideon Bouwer (33), now faces murder charges.
“My child was unlucky in love,” Ronel says, tears welling up in her eyes. “When she loved she loved with everything in her being.”
Bouwer became a frequent visitor at Klipfontein, her son Johan’s farm near Klerksdorp, where she and Nell-Marie lived.
The farm was sold and Ronel, who was promised part of the proceeds, decided to help Nell-Marie start her own hair and beauty salon in Cape Town.
“At the time Nellie and I were staying with her half-sister, Anelle, in Standerton,” Ronel says. “Gideon called nonstop, saying Nellie should visit. I begged her not to go but she kept saying, ‘Mom, nothing will happen’.”
Gideon fetched Nell-Marie on 8 March. Ronel and her daughter spoke on the phone daily but five days into the visit Ronel struggled to get hold of her. As the days passed Ronel became frantic with worry.
Ronel nearly collapsed when she eventually saw Nell-Marie on 27 March. The nursing staff assured her Nell-Marie was strong and would pull through but eventually her organs collapsed and she died on 12 April 2008.
Every night Ronel prays she’ll get to the truth. “She died a terrible death and now all we have is questions. That’s all I want - the truth so she can rest in peace.”
* Bouwer has pleaded not guilty in the murder trial in the Klerksdorp regional court.
Read the full article in the YOU of 22 April 2010