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Remembering Jesse Hess and her grandpa helps reinvigorate fight against GBV

Jesse Hess would have celebrated her 21st birthday on Tuesday. She was raped and murdered in her Parow flat on August 30, 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Jesse Hess would have celebrated her 21st birthday on Tuesday. She was raped and murdered in her Parow flat on August 30, 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 26, 2021


Cape Town - Family members, friends and the University of the Western Cape fraternity yesterday commemorated the life of slain 18-year-old theology student Jesse Hess on what would have been her 21st birthday.

Almost two years ago, Hess was raped and murdered along with her 85-year-old grandfather Chris Lategan inside their Parow flat. Her body was found on her bed, while her grandfather was found tied up and gagged in the toilet.

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Several months later, to the public’s shock and outrage, police arrested a family member and his accomplice for the murders.

Hess’s cousin, David van Boven, and Tasliem Ambrose were set to stand trial in the Western Cape High Court last year when the matter was postponed to this year and then to next year.

In commemorating the student’s life, Hess’s family and friends as well as members of the UWC fraternity participated in a tribute video aired on YouTube and Facebook simultaneously yesterday afternoon.

In the video, renowned poet Antjie Krog recited a poem in remembrance, while Hess’s grandmother, her mother, brother, cousin, aunt and friends shared fond memories they had of her.

Hess’s grandmother Kathleen Lategan shared how she missed her sweet granddaughter, who loved sunflowers and how the family had been looking forward to seeing her grow up and eventually get married and start her own family.

“Jesse was my only granddaughter and we were like friends. She appreciated me so much and would write me little notes telling me how much she loved me and appreciated me.

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“I remember the last note she wrote me was to thank me that I still was working. At that time I was the only person working in our family, and every month she would take a bit of her NSFAS money and contribute towards the household. This year would have been such a special year for her. She would have turned 21 and also graduated from UWC.”

Hess’s mother Brenda Miles, her brother Daren Solomon and cousin Casey Martin also participated in the tribute video, sharing how much they missed and loved her.

Jesse’s aunt Sandy Hess said: “I loved Jesse to pieces, she was my daughter. She couldn’t cook to save her life though, she would literally burn water, until I started to teach her how to cook.

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“She could now make Malva pudding and would make it every Sunday. Oh, and she liked writing me little notes too. The last note she wrote me was on Mother’s Day. I will keep and cherish these always.

Jesse's aunt and family spokesperson, Sandy Hess. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

UWC rector and vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius said: “Today dozens of sunflowers should have illuminated Jesse’s home. She was a special young lady who dreamt of becoming a preacher.

“In addition to celebrating her 21st birthday, she should have been preparing for her final exams, which would have seen her complete her theology degree at UWC.

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“Instead, her family is still trying to come to terms with the fact that their sunshine had been taken from them. Jesse’s untimely death and that of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana as well as countless other women at the time forced the country to face the scourge of gender-based violence,” Pretorius said.

“Jesse wanted to change the world by helping others by educating our communities about GBV and by trying to find solutions we can help fulfil her dream.

“South Africa should not be a country where women live in constant fear. It should be a place where girls can reach their full potential, unhindered by violence and with peace reigning at home.

“Today we mark Jesse’s 21st birthday with her family, who also lost her grandfather Christopher Lategan in the same incident, by remembering our continued commitment and efforts in the fight against GBV,” said Pretorius.

First-year student Jesse Hess, 19, was found murdered along with her 85-year-old grandfather Chris at their home in Victoria Street, Parow. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

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Cape Argus