“Mom, are you serious?”
This was Jacques Barnard’s (33) emotional reaction when his mom phoned him on Thursday morning (16 January) with life-changing news.
Jacques and his mom, Suzette, lost their sister and daughter, Chantelle (20), nine years ago when she was murdered in Benoni, Johannesburg.
Suzette phoned Jacques yesterday with the news that Chantelle’s alleged murderer, Jurgen Vandekeere, who’s been on the run for years, finally handed himself over to police.
Suzette (60) says the past nine years have been hell but now she can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“Chantelle’s death was extremely traumatic for Jacques. He didn’t even want anything to do with the court case. But when I phoned him with this news, he just burst into tears,” an emotional Suzette says.
At the time of her death Chantelle was renting a property on a smallholding that belonged to Jurgen and his father, Roland. Jurgen also lived on the property. Ten days before her 21st birthday in April 2011, Chantelle was kidnapped and tortured for hours before being raped and murdered.
Soon after Jurgen was arrested in connection with her murder and he remained in custody for eight months before being released on bail by the high court in Johannesburg.
Jurgen was to appear in court again in September 2013, but he never showed up and then just disappeared without a trace. On Wednesday, 15 January, six years and four months later, he walked into a police station in Benoni and handed himself over to police.
“I’m ecstatic that my daughter’s alleged killer has finally been caught, but also because I never stopped fighting. Because I never gave up. Because every single day after Chantelle’s murder, I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to get answers.”
Captain Peter Mbanoni, one of the investigating officers, confirmed that Vandekeere was arrested after handing himself over. He also says Vandekeere arrived in South Africa from overseas on Wednesday, but he couldn’t confirm where exactly the murder accused came from.
Tania Opperman, spokesperson for the South African Support Initiative, says Vandekeere’s father was with him when he went to the police station.
She believes the investigation into Chantelle’s murder became too heated and this caused Vandekeere to return to South Africa to face the consequences.
“We can’t believe that there’s finally been a breakthrough after so many years. It’s incredible news – for us and the family involved,” she says.
yesterday. He was remanded in custody – and sent to Kgosi Mampuru prison.
He’ll appear again on 27 March when a trial date will be set.