120112. Sutherland. Gerhardus Du Plessis speaks to the Cape Argus a year after the traumatic event played of at his farm where a French couple bodies were found after they alledgedly commited suicide. In this photo Gerhardus shows the safe door that was blown up by the police.  Picture henk Kruger/Cape Argus. Reporter Natasha Prince
120112. Sutherland. Gerhardus Du Plessis speaks to the Cape Argus a year after the traumatic event played of at his farm where a French couple bodies were found after they alledgedly commited suicide. In this photo Gerhardus shows the safe door that was blown up by the police. Picture henk Kruger/Cape Argus. Reporter Natasha Prince

Gone, but not quite forgotten

By Time of article published Jan 13, 2012

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NATASHA PRINCE

Staff Reporter

IT WILL be a year tomorrow since a French couple shattered the calm of a Karoo town when they killed a policeman and went on the run.

A manhunt followed and, six days later, Philippe Meniére, 60, and Agnes Jardel, 55, were dead.

They were reputed to be members of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment cult.

They committed suicide after being cornered in a farmhouse outside Sutherland.

Meniére and Jardel were on the run for shooting Constable Jacob Boleme on January 14 at the farmhouse they occupied near Sutherland.

Gerhardus Du Plessis, who owned the farm where the couple had lived for 12 years, asked them to leave because family members wanted to use the farmhouse. He had apparently asked them to move out in July 2010, but they had not done so by December 2010.

Du Plessis knew the French couple possessed firearms, for which the licences had expired. He lodged a complaint with the Sutherland police.

On January 14, Du Plessis’s sons, Jaen and Cobus, went with four police officers to the couple’s house with a search warrant.

Meniére handed over the weapons, then pulled out a handgun from his clothing and shot Boleme. As the others fled, he shot and wounded police officer Glenwall du Toit. Jardel was firing from the house.

The couple fled in Du Plessiss bakkie, shooting at the officers as they went.

When the vehicle got stuck, the couple fled into the veld.

Police launched a manhunt on foot and by air, with more than 70 police officers with trackers and dogs searching the 3 000ha farm.

On January 20, police cornered them at a vacant farmhouse 400m from the house where they had lived after member of the public had tipped them off. A shootout ensued and police later found several guns and ammunition with the bodies.

They were given a pauper’s burial in Kimberley last February. Last May, the Independent Complaints Directorate found they had committed suicide.

French consul Antoine Michon said last January that Meniére had been 30 and Jardel 25 when they arrived in South Africa from Paris. He said Jardel had a half-brother and two sisters in France. Meniére had no living relatives, but had friends in France.

Tomorrow, Sutherland residents are to commemorate the death of Boleme.

While many in the town seldom think of the week-long manhunt for the couple, Du Plessis says he remembers every detail.

“For the public it’s something they would forget, but not for me,” he said.

Du Plessis pointed out where Boleme’s body had lain and where Du Toit had fallen.

The farmer drew in the sand outlines of where the police vans and his son’s bakkie had been parked when the shooting took place.

The couple’s furniture and other possessions remain stacked up in the farmhouse.

Du Plessis said he had received a letter via the embassy from Jardel’s brother apologising for all the trouble. The farmer is waiting for someone to claim their possessions.

Du Plessis said he was heartbroken by the tragedy.

A resident, who works in the town’s gift shop, said she did not think much had changed.

“The people who were curious about the couple came and went. They got what they wanted, but this is a peaceful town,” she said.

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