Eugene Marais killed his wife and forced his children to take an overdose of sleeping tablets before he killed himself.

Pretoria - A father from Bronkhorstspruit, who last week killed his wife and then committed suicide, was given the death penalty 20 years ago for a bus attack in KwaZulu-Natal in which seven people were killed.

After Marais assaulted and stabbed his wife, Tania, to death on Thursday night, he forced his three children, aged 11, five and four, to drink sleeping tablets, Beeld reported on Monday.

The oldest child, a girl, pretended to drink the pills and fall asleep, then later fled the premises and ran 5km to the nearest police station to get help.

By the time police managed to gain access to the house, Marais had committed suicide.

The two younger children were rushed to hospital in an unconscious state, where their stomachs were pumped, and they were stabilised.

All the children have been placed into the care of their grandparents.

At the time of the bus attack, in 1990, Eugene Marais, 51, a former AWB member, and two of his friends opened fire on a Putco bus, killing seven people and wounding another 27.

Marais and his two co-accused were given the death penalty, but this was later commuted to a 25-year prison term, of which they served only a few years before they were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. - Sapa