Siege man’s death diary
Cape Town - Up until his death, Michael Volkwyn, described by his family as a “reclusive genius”, documented in his diary the details of the stand-off with police officers at his Athlone home this week.
Weekend Argus on Friday exclusively gained access to 61-year-old Volkwyn’s diary when his surviving siblings opened their hearts and spoke about their brilliant brother who was paranoid about the police.
In his diary, Volkwyn, a retired mechanical engineer, recorded the details of his confrontation with police who wanted to enter his house on Tuesday afternoon. He had locked himself in his house with the 13 dogs that police wanted to remove from him.
One of these dogs had allegedly attacked Volkwyn’s backyard tenant who had laid a complaint against him with the police.
Volkwyn’s diary on April 29 indicates “cops armed with letters” arrived at his house that day. On April 30, he wrote “riot cops were there”. On May 1 he wrote that police officers were “stalking” him.
On Tuesday night when police surrounded his house and wanted to get him out, he wrote “lots of cops” in his diary. In another entry, at 7.01pm on Tuesday, he wrote “still some shots”. At 10.29pm he wrote that a “Casspir pulls into driveway”.
His one-line diary entries continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning. At 6.12am he wrote that he had received a text message stating “guns are trained on your window”.
His last few diary entries on Wednesday until, before his death continue:
7.19am Casspir reverses
7.25am Casspir moves back
10.05am All is quiet. Casspir still at boom.
Police claimed after the stand-off that Volkwyn had shot police officer Leeroy Scott in the face and later killed himself with a gunshot to the head. Volkwyn’s siblings, Diana Williams, Roy Volkwyn and Barbara Volkwyn, on Friday recalled their brother’s achievements, peculiarities and his psychological difficulties.
Diana Williams said her brother had a “paranoia” about “police brutality”.
She was on the scene outside the Albemarle Road house in Hazendal during the stand-off with police, praying that it would end amicably.
“I told the police his (Volkwyn’s) history of police brutality. I said that unless they guaranteed his safety to come out, he would not come out.
“I doubted that he would come out the way things were going there,” she said.
Williams has photographs of her brother with blood and injuries to his head and other body parts, allegedly incurred while in police custody some years ago.
She added: “A tenant moved in at the back and they played loud music. He asked them repeatedly to turn it down and they didn’t. He smashed their car.
“He was arrested… My father found my brother at the back of a dark cell (at Athlone police station). He had axe marks on his head. He had a cracked rib. The police said another man had beaten him.”
Volkwyn’s siblings recalled another incident where a police officer allegedly came to the house and beat up their brother.
Roy Volkwyn said the family on Friday laid a complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate because they wanted the police to “explain what happened” this week. “We want answers from the police.”
He said his brother had previously experienced “incidents where he was injured by the police while in police custody”.
Michael Volkwyn had been an awaiting trial prisoner for two months after he was arrested in 2000 for allegedly attacking neighbours with a bow and arrow. He was acquitted .
Police said this week they found home-made weapons in his house.
Roy Volkwyn defended his brother. “The police say they found guns and confiscated them. The public is saying he’s a madman who had machine guns. It’s all very sensational.”
He added that his brother “was capable of building machine guns and he had a fear of police officers”.
He said his brother had not been diagnosed with any mental illness but had displayed symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder characterised by difficulties with social interaction.
Williams said she had recognised her brother had some of its characteristic traits. “He was absolutely brilliant. There were psychological issues. We did try to get help.”
Barbara Volkwyn added: “Michael could just look at a board at school and add up numbers fast. He could get answers before maths teachers. Maybe one of the problems was that he was too bright.”