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Pretoria - Rose petals and flowers covered the grass on Tuesday in front of a jungle gym where a father shot his two young sons and their mother, killing them, before turning the gun on himself.
It is believed the couple’s oldest child, aged six, saw the lifeless bodies of his family soon after four shots were heard at the Woodlands Lifestyle Estate on Monday afternoon, although police could not confirm this.
Two women who were first to reach the scene realised immediately the four were dead. They say they are traumatised and are undergoing counselling.
Chelaine van der Westhuizen said: “I was asked to offer medical assistance because shots were fired, but I had no idea that is what I would find. I can’t get that image out of my head.
“A mother with her four-year-old son next to her. Less then a metre away was a dad with a gun in his hand and the two-year-old boy close by. Not moving, or breathing.”
Despite taking out a protection order earlier this month, Carla van Wyk, 32, had allowed her former partner, Matthew Du Toit, 32, into the estate on Monday to visit the children.
Earlier this month, she and her four children fled to her parents’ house in the estate, leaving Du Toit behind in Secunda after their relationship apparently turned abusive. It is believed Van Wyk wanted to move to Cape Town with the children, but Du Toit disapproved.
Du Toit apparently arrived at the complex on foot with a bag of sweets for the children.
Police spokeswoman Captain Colette Weilbach said the foursome were sitting in the park outside the clubhouse when tragedy struck. It appears the preschoolers were playing while their parents talked.
According to a source, the conversation became heated and people who were in the vicinity of the park left. Moments later, four shots were heard.
All four were apparently shot in the head at close range.
Estate manager Estelle du Plessis was one of the first people on the scene. She then ran to fetch Van Der Westhuizen from the gym to help her, while police and an ambulance were contacted.
“The blinds are normally open and we look on to the park. On Monday they were closed and I have no idea why. It’s just how God planned it,” Van der Westhuizen said.
It is believed that Du Toit shot Van Wyk first, then the four-year-old boy. He shot his two-year-old son and then himself.
Said Van der Westhuizen: “At the scene I felt for their pulse but they were all already gone. I was so calm.
“The Holy Spirit was with me at that time. I was focused on what I had to do and when I realised they were dead, I went to each body and just prayed for them.
“He walked in here with a gun, so it’s obvious he planned this. No one will truly know what he was thinking to do this. It’s so shocking.
“You never think you will ever witness something like this in your life. My prayers are with the family at this time.
“I can’t believe what they must have gone through. I’m still very traumatised by what I saw. Those little kids just lying there. It’s so sad,” Van der Westhuizen said, fighting back tears.
Du Plessis said residents of the complex were shocked by the news.
“Everyone was, and still is, shocked,” she said. “On Monday evening, we all came together at the scene and the residents said a prayer and placed flowers where the bodies were. More residents came yesterday (on Tuesday) and prayed there as well. Our sincerest condolences and our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this traumatic time.”
Attempts were made to reach the family for comment, without success. It is believed that the couple’s six-year-old son is with his grandparents.