It was just a touch and a whisper, but it set off a chain reaction of anger in the Benoni Magistrate’s court.
Jurgen Vandekeere, who yesterday appeared for the alleged murder of 20-year-old Chantelle Barnard, was sitting so close to his distraught father that the worried parent could touch him.
It was a touch on the arm by his father and an inaudible whisper, but the Barnard family sitting in the pews just behind the Vandekeere family were enraged that during court proceedings, Roland Vandekeere would have the “arrogance” to try to communicate with his son.
Barnard’s mother Suzette, upset at the case’s postponement, wept outside the court with several family members, worried that another delay could mean a possible victory for the “man who killed her daughter”. And the conversation mid-court between Roland and Jurgen had compounded her grief.
“He can say ‘hi’ to his son, but I can never talk to my daughter again,” she wept outside the court.
It wasn’t just the Barnards who were infuriated by the breach of court etiquette. Jurgen’s uncle, Johan Vandekeere, said it was ridiculous that his brother would try to communicate so obviously in court.
“They can go visit him in prison. I’m going to lodge an official complaint with the court about this. They’ve done it before,” he said.
Johan hugged and comforted the distraught mother outside the court, another indication that Johan believes that his 33-year-old nephew is guilty, an opinion he is willing to share.
“I’m ashamed he’s my nephew,” said Johan, also a member of the local Community Policing Forum (CPF).
Vandekeere’s father was unwilling to speak to the media.
Yesterday’s postponement came after months of waiting for DNA test results that were gathered at the scene of the crime in April. Because of a massive backlog of toxicology and DNA testing, Vandekeere has had to wait more than three months for the results that will allow magistrate Samuel Makamu to set a trial date.
Chantelle Barnard was dropping off keys at her landlord’s home in Benoni when she went missing. The 20-year-old was found by her mother, Suzette, later that night at the house occupied by Vandekeere, her throat slit and underwear strewn around her lifeless body.
CPF head Koekie Bianchina had been at the scene on the night of the murder and painted a detailed description of the scene. Vandekeere had allegedly been watching pornographic videos during the incident, and Barnard’s corpse had been washed, presumably after she had been murdered.
Vandekeere abandoned his bail application at his previous court appearance, after protests outside the court indicated that it might be dangerous for him to be released.
Women’s groups and CPF members threatened violence against the alleged killer at his first appearance, and even yesterday a few protesters sat alongside the family in the court offering moral support.