The young schoolteacher had enjoyed a wonderful holiday with her family in Linden, Johannesburg, and was on her way back to her new life in Namibia with her dream man.
They were recently married and she was looking forward to starting a new job teaching Grade 5s in the beautiful desert country.
She felt content. Her father had spoilt them with his speciality, red wine potjie, and although her brother, Kobus, was studying hard for his university exams they’d found time to watch movies and play snooker and boardgames.
It was just like the old days, before her brother had been paralysed playing rugby.
“Thank you for the fantastic holiday. I love you. See you soon,” 24-year-old Anlie van der Merwe told her parents when she left.
But barely a week later her life was in tatters. In the early hours of 27 May her father, Ben Engelbrecht, is said to have strangled his wife, Ina (49), then his son, Kobus (21), in their beds. He then apparently tried to gas himself in his car.
Soon after her blissful visit Anlie was back in Johannesburg – this time to bury her mother and brother.
In a frank telephone interview from Windhoek she told YOU of her father’s battle with depression and gambling since Kobus’ rugby accident.
The seeds of the tragedy were sown on 5 May 2007. “I remember it as if it were yesterday,” Anlie says.
Her parents had gone to watch Kobus in a Hoërskool Linden second rugby team match against Riebeeckrand Hoërskool in Krugersdorp. When they arrived home late that afternoon Ina took Anlie aside and told her Kobus had broken his neck in a freak accident and was paralysed.
She could hear her father weeping inconsolably downstairs. His only son – a fine sportsman – was paralysed. It was a huge blow to Ben.
Kobus recovered well enough in time to do quite a lot for himself and was at university studying to become a chartered accountant like his father. He was about to take delivery of a specially adapted car that would have made him more mobile. But he died the day before taking delivery.
His father meanwhile had become deeply depressed and addicted to gambling.
“My dad never came to terms with Kobus’ accident and began to feel more and more powerless,” Anlie says.
Ben began gambling online in an attempt to feel in control of his circumstances. But it took over his life and caused a rift between him and Ina.
His relationship with Kobus also deteriorated. “My father tried to help Kobus too much after the accident and that irritated him.”
She says before her father’s depression they were a happy family. “We knew he was depressed but we didn’t know it was that bad – I wish we had.”
Anlie hasn’t seen her father since the murder of her mother and brother.
She’s overwhelmed by sadness rather than rage and wants people to know Ben is a fantastic man and father who did everything in his power to care for his family. But the situation had simply become too much for him to handle.
“I’m sad my mother and brother are gone. I’m sad for my father and what awaits him, and that he’ll have to live with what he has done every day for the rest of his life,” she says.
*Ben Engelbrecht appeared in court on 30 May accused of killing his wife and son. The case was postponed and he was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
Read the full interview with Anlie in YOU dated 23 June 2011.
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