Two years have passed since her 26-year-old son Richard was involved in a brawl with friends and left for dead – but Maryna Wood still can’t hold back the tears talking about him.
Richard’s best friend, Christopher van der Westhuizen, and another friend, Marchant Bredell, were with him at a watering hole in Pretoria North in November 2017 when a fight apparently broke out between them.
Exactly what happened between the three friends remains unclear but Richard got punched and bumped his head on the pavement outside.
Richard’s two friends apparently left him there and eventually he was taken to hospital by a stranger.
A day after the incident, when Maryna was looking for her son, Christopher and Marchant where adamant they didn’t know anything of his whereabouts. Maryna found Richard at the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in GaRankuwa, northwest of Pretoria, where he was on live supports. He’d had brain surgery, apparently for bleeding on the brain, but never regained consciousness and died a week later.
“We don’t hate anyone, but justice must be done. I don’t think at this stage we’re able to forgive yet,” Maryna tells YOU. She tries to stay composed but can’t stop the tears.
“The two of them have never apologised to us. In court they chat and laugh together. I believe when we’re looking for Richard, if they just said ‘Auntie Maryna we’re sorry, something terrible happened and it was an accident’ there wouldn’t even have been a court case. But they lied and I heard from strangers that an unknown man was taken to hospital in GaRangkuwa,” she says.
Christopher and Marchant were initially charged with murder but the charge was later changed to culpable homicide. Christopher pleaded guilty and Marchant was provisionally acquitted. Sentencing is due on 6 February, in the magistrate’s court in Pretoria North.
But Maryna says she can’t tell what would be a just sentence.
“What does one say? How do you relate a fair sentence to the death of your child? Afterwards I’ll be able to say whether it was fair or not, but there’s really nothing fair about this whole situation.”
Maryna is still deeply troubled by not knowing exactly what happened that night.
“No one knows what really happened. What the fighting was about and why they left him there. That’s one thing I’d like to hear from them. Why did you leave him there? Their friend. I know it won’t make a difference, but I do want to know.” Richard would have turned 29 earlier this month.
“You live thinking about joining him one day. You think things get better with time, but the one day you’ll be okay and the next day you’re battling to breathe,” Maryna says.
“Whenever I drive past somewhere where we’ve had good times or whenever something important happens, I think ‘what would Richard have done or said’. Without our faith I don’t know how we would’ve got through this. It would’ve been so much worse.”