Pretoria - “She wanted to leave a good memory of herself to everyone who knew her.” This is what the mother of the 14-year-old girl who shot and killed herself in Amberfield Glen said about her daughter on the day of the shooting.
Catelin de Witt had apparently told her friends that she could no longer deal with the difficulty she was going through, and was acting “funny”.
Gisela de Witt said her daughter had made it a point to be funnier, to be more spontaneous, and to say her goodbyes to everyone to make sure that she left a good memory.
She added that even though Catelin told her school mates about the difficult period she was going through, she had been normal and nothing about her appeared to be amiss.
“Some of her school mates told me that the ball started rolling on Tuesday when she told them that ‘she was in a lot of pain and could not handle it anymore’ and that she had acted funny throughout the day (Friday),” Gisela said on Tuesday.
Catelin, a Grade 8 pupil from Hoërskool Eldoraigne, shot herself with her father’s gun moments after returning from school on Friday afternoon.
Speaking to the Pretoria News on Tuesday, both parents said the family was overwhelmed with anguish and disbelief.
Her father, Okker de Witt, said he fetched them from school, after which Catelin and her younger brother asked to go and play at the park after arriving home.
“I unpacked the groceries from the car and didn’t see her take the firearm. While I was talking to some neighbours we heard a ruckus and when we went to the park we found Catelin there,” Okker said.
However, he disputed reports that the 14-year-old shot herself in front of her brother. “He couldn’t have been there. He was walking in the driveway when the shooting happened. We heard that he tried to stop her - that’s not true. He wasn’t there when it happened,” he said.
Okker said his 10-year-old son was finding it hard to accept his sister’s death. “He does not really speak. He climbs into her bed because he misses her but does not seem to understand what’s going on. But he knows that she is no longer with us,” he said.
Provincial police spokesman Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng said two shots were fired in the park. “We cannot say if the girl wanted to shoot her brother or wanted to scare him,” he was reporting as having said.
“Two shots were fired as we found two cartridges but she was shot only once. She took her father’s firearm which she got out of his car. We are investigating a contravention of the Firearms Control Act by the father,” said Mofokeng.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said they received hundreds of calls every day from teenagers who feel “overwhelmed and hopelessness”.
“Things that contribute to teenagers thinking about suicide are breakdowns in relationships with family members or friends or commonly with their boyfriends or girlfriends,” said Kathy Chambers, operations director at Sadag.
She said that reasons for them calling in for help varied. “The biggest issue is bullying. It’s one of the main reasons teenagers between 13 and 19 call in for help,” Chambers said. She explained that that age group was prone to being “spontaneous”.
“They live in the moment as opposed to adults who think about the consequences of their actions.”
Despite saying that suicides among teenagers were spontaneous, she said there were signs that parents and friends could look out for.
“They usually talk about it, write letters, or mention it in passing. They give away some of their prized possessions, have a loss of interest and isolate themselves.”
Sadag can be reached on 0800 567 567 or SMS 31393.
Gisela said Catelin’s funeral would be on Friday.