Cape Town - She paused for a moment, her eyes welling up, as she thought about whether she would ever be able to forgive him.
It was the first visible sign of emotion Carol White had shown since she first sat down and started to describe the ordeal she and her daughter endured 15 months ago.
She took a few seconds to compose herself before saying: “I will never forgive him. She didn’t deserve it.”
It was the first time White has spoken publicly about the inner turmoil she has experienced since the man she had lived with for four years, Johannes de Jager, 49, was arrested for murdering a girl of 16, Charmaine Mare, a friend of her daughter Kristen who had moved in with the family after relocating from Mpumalanga.
The decision to take Charmaine in was not an easy one, she said yesterday.
But when she saw the dire circumstances in which the girl was living, she wanted to try to offer her a better life, and perhaps help see the teen’s artistic skills land her a job as a tattoo designer.
Charmaine moved in earlier than expected, ignoring White’s advice to travel to Cape Town only after she and Kristen had returned from a pre-booked cruise.
She fitted in well with the family, secured a job interview at a local supermarket, and even became good friends with De Jager’s son and the neighbour’s daughter.
“She was a lovely girl,” White said, smiling as she recalled their time together.
So when she and Kristen left on their cruise on January 7 last year, she didn’t at all feel uneasy about leaving Charmaine behind with De Jager.
“I would never have left her alone if I knew what was going on,” she said. In fact, De Jager and the teenager seemed happy when they went to the harbour to see them off.
The mother and daughter were not contactable on the boat because they did not have cellphone reception.
Four days later, when the boat docked in Table Bay harbour at 5.30am, messages Charmaine had sent them started to pour in.
In the messages, she told them she was scared, and that De Jager refused to leave her alone. They immediately dialled her number and she answered the call, scared and reluctant to speak to them because De Jager must have been with her, White said.
But by the time they arrived at home in Windsor Park, Kraaifontein, there was no sign of Charmaine.
De Jager told them she had left to buy cigarettes, and had never returned.
When they confronted him with the messages Charmaine had sent them, he denied doing anything to hurt her.
“You never expect a person to do that (kill someone) … I thought that he tried to sleep with her and that she ran away,” White said.
The police were alerted and for days they searched for Charmaine.
De Jager was part of the search party and had even gone to the police to report Charmaine missing, White said.
However, Kristen was sceptical and wouldn’t let him near her mother.
On January 14, 2013 Charmaine’s dismembered body was discovered, her torso charred.
“I still don’t believe it. It’s like I’m in a nightmare and I’m waiting to wake up,” she said.
White described De Jager as well-liked.
While they had the odd petty domestic squabble, he was never violent towards her, and gave her no reason to feel unsafe.
Even when, in the heat of an argument, he told her “if I can’t have you no one else will”, she didn’t make anything of it because she didn’t think that he would hurt her, she said.
Killing Charmaine was completely out of character for De Jager, she said.
White said she often blamed herself for what had happened, and wondered why she never noticed that the man she fell in love with was capable of a cold-hearted killing.
“I was so naïve, so stupid,” she said angrily.
She hasn’t spoken to De Jager since his arrest,
This despite the fact he has tried to make contact with her on several occasions to beg for her forgiveness.
But she refuses to accept his calls, and has left her job of 18 years to move out of the city and start afresh.
“I was like a zombie. Have you ever felt that you don’t want to live?”
This week De Jager was convicted of Mare’s murder as well as the 2008 murder of 18-year-old Cape Town prostitute Hiltina Alexander.
White still wonders what it was that drove him to do the unthinkable. However, she will never ask what went through his mind because she no longer trusts anything he says.
De Jager, now in Pollsmoor Prison, is expected in court for sentencing on Monday.