Cape Town -
On Tuesday, Vilene Swartz was apparently just another matriculant working through her three-hour maths exam. But Vilene, 18, a prefect at Oaklands High School in Lansdowne, had appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court the day before in connection with a charge of murder.
Vilene, who is four months pregnant, is suspected of killing a 15-year-old neighbour, Michaela du Plessis, whose family live about 30m from the Swartz home in Halman’s Walk, Hanover Park. The girls had known each other all their lives.
Michaela, who was writing her Grade 9 exams at Mount View Secondary in Hanover Park, apparently bled to death after being stabbed in the leg.
The girls are said to have argued about a 22-year-old house painter.
On Tuesday, the Cape Argus spoke to Vilene as she sat in her parents’ lounge, smartly dressed in her Oaklands uniform, complete with her prefect badge. Asked how her maths exam had gone, she whispered: “It was okay.”
Her mother, Sandra Persencie, stepped in to sit beside her and said: “She’s taking strain, she’s still traumatised.”
Vilene told the Cape Argus: “I am pregnant. I am due on April 8.”
She named the father as the house painter, and said they had been together for about a year. She said in recent months Michaela had been “trying to see him every time he comes to visit me”. On Sunday, the conflict had escalated to verbal abuse and threats. Then Michaela was stabbed in the leg.
Up the street, the Cape Argus spoke to Rozelle du Plessis, Michaela’s mother. “These girls grew up together,” she said.
A friend, Wadooda Daniels, described Michaela as a “lovable, well-mannered” teen who had excelled at her school work and who had hoped to join the navy when she finished school.
Bleeding heavily, Michaela was taken to the Hanover Park Day Hospital, less than 1km away, but had died later, reportedly from loss of blood.
Vilene’s family said her mother and her aunt, Sharon Wessels, had taken her to the police station on Sunday afternoon.
She appeared in court on Monday morning, after being granted bail. Less than 24 hours later she was in the exam hall writing her maths paper.
Education MEC Donald Grant’s spokeswoman Bronagh Casey said counsellors had visited Mount View Secondary after the killing.
Another primary school in the area had also been visited by trauma experts who counselled two Grade 4 pupils who had witnessed the stabbing.
Vilene’s mother said she had been to the Du Plessis’s house to offer her condolences, but the Du Plessis family had declined to accept them.
Vilene is due in court again on January 29.
She hopes to take a gap year next year to care for her newborn child.
“But I’m not excited about this baby anymore – not now,” she said quietly.