The Matthews family will never forget how their joy, their daughter Leigh, was cruelly taken from them 10 years ago. But this close-knit unit have found joy again.
Ten months ago Leigh Matthews’s older sister, Karen, gave birth to a baby girl, Grace Leigh, who was named after her late aunt.
And this gift is what brings tears to Rob Matthews’s eyes whenever he mentions her.
“We don’t believe Leigh has left us. We believe she’s alive in a different form,” he said.
Matthews, his wife, Sharon, and Karen have kept out of the public eye for years. But the family is “doing well”.
To mark the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s death, Matthews says the family will do as they do each year - celebrate Leigh’s birthday. She would have turned 31 on Tuesday.
But while he finds happiness in those dear to him, Matthews says he will never forgive the man - Donovan Moodley - who took his child’s life.
“I have never forgiven him. Never. I don’t feel a need to forgive. I think people need to be accountable for their deeds and it’s not for me to forgive.”
On Moodley’s last application for a retrial two years ago, Matthews said there was certainly unfinished business in the case.
“This unfinished business is the rest of the people that were involved with him. Both the judge and many other people have all agreed that this crime couldn’t have taken place by him (Moodley) alone. I still believe that one day those people will be held accountable and it’s my fervent wish that this takes place.”
Matthews believes South Africa will one day be a better place - when criminals are brought to book for their crimes.
“For people to get away with crimes, big or small, that just breeds more contempt for the law and we can’t allow that happen,” he says.
Matthews is saddened when he reads news reports of families who have lost their children in similar, senseless ways he lost his young daughter in 2004.
He feels desperate and angry that the country has not made enough progress in combating crime.
“I would like to see a greater political will in combating crime. I would like to see that cases don’t slide into the file called ‘cold case’. At least we’ve had some justice and I’m desperately sorry for those families who haven’t. Nobody should go through the trauma of losing a child in such a manner.”
Were his daughter alive today, Matthews said he had no doubt she would have become a successful chartered accountant.
“Outwardly Leigh was very soft, but inwardly she was one of the most determined people I have known.
“Ironically this happened to somebody who was incredibly sensitive about security. She was acutely aware of security and the need for security and yet somebody was able to do this to her - to us. Sometimes things are done by people you know.”
An emotional and teary Matthews trailed off in his message to grieving parents: “Hug your kids each day. Don’t have regrets.”
Matthews said there were many people in this case who didn’t receive credit for piecing together the puzzle of Leigh’s death and catching Moodley .
He said there were people who didn’t sleep while they chased after leads.
“Ten years on I still haven’t forgotten the contribution they made in finding our daughter.”
For the 21 years of her life this gentle soul, as previously described by her father, would celebrate all her birthdays in a subtle manner.
“She was a very conservative person, gentle and not one to seek any attention.
“She was very down-to-earth,” he said.
- Independent on Saturday