Rehithile Katlego Matjane, accused of killing her two children, leaves the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, with her husband, psychologist Dr Maxwell Matjane. Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/ANA
Pretoria - The 6-year-old boy tried to fend off his mother’s bullets with his arms after she had shot his 2-year-old brother in the front seat of her car. He was later found lying outside the car in a pool of blood, dead.

Police found the younger boy with his head slumped forward, and pathologists told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that little Alvero Matjane had suffered a single bullet wound to the side of his head.

The elder boy Keyondre was shot in the forehead and again in the lower right arm as he tried to protect himself from the hail of bullets fired by his mother. Both children were shot from the front, which meant their mother had to face them when she pulled the trigger.

But 34-year-old Rehithile Katlego Matjane said she had no recollection of shooting her two children.

While she did not deny pulling the trigger on the afternoon of April 17, 2015, she only had “snapshot memories” of what happened.

She blamed this on the side effects of a host of pain killers and the other medication she had taken prior to the incident for menstrual pains and headaches.

Matjane, the wife of well-known city psychologist Dr Maxwell Matjane, pleaded not guilty to the double murder. The couple had another child earlier this year.

On Monday, psychologist Dr Ivanov Savov testified on her behalf and said she could not be held responsible for her actions.

Savov said what she had done could be blamed on the side effects of the medication she had taken for a few days leading up to the incident.

He testified it was clear the mother had no prior intention of shooting her children and that she only decided to shoot them a second or two before she actually pulled the trigger.

According to him, Matjane had acted in a state of sane automatism - a reaction to the medication she took, coupled with a glass of wine she had during lunch that day.

Savov described Matjane as a normal, loving mother prior to the incident, who had a happy and “almost perfect” marriage. Her husband continued to stand by her through the trial.

Her advocate, Piet Pistorius. told the court that his client had started using a host of medication two days prior to the incident.

The reaction was due to the medication she took, coupled with the glass of wine during lunch that day, he said. The medicine included an array of pain killers, asthma inhaler, energy drink and sport supplements.

On the second day she started to feel “very sad and lonely”. She also developed suicidal thoughts, although she did not know why, he explained.

Her next snapshot memory was waking up the following day in a police cell. “She did not even know she had been detained. She immediately asked where her children were,” Pistorius said.

The mother said she had no idea how she drove from the family’s Pretoria East home to a remote spot in Hammanskraal. Her last recollection was strapping herself and her children into her luxury car.

Police Captain Evan Mokgapa recalled how she had been called to a plot in Hammanskraal by a member of the community.

Matjane was 4.5km from the scene where she had shot her children at the time. “When I got there this lady ran to me and hugged me. She said ‘I killed my children. Please kill me too. I want to rest with my children',” she told the court earlier this year.

Mokgapa, with the accused in the back seat of the police van, drove to the spot where the children were found.

The firearm used to shoot the children was found on the front seat of the car, next to the body of Alvero.

“I asked her why she had killed her children and she said ‘I have struggled for 12 years in my marriage’. I gathered that she had domestic issues,” the police officer said.

Mokgapa said while Matjane was crying, she spoke in a normal and coherent manner. “My impression was that she knew what she had done.”

Matjane’s husband later arrived on the scene and calmly spoke to his wife.

He also fetched the blood-stained car the following day to have it washed.

Matjane, in her explanation of plea, said she and her husband had a good relationship.

Savov said the mother had an idiosyncratic reaction to the medication, which resulted in a “psychotic depressive episode” and subsequent suicide tendencies. He said it was a once off, as she now realised the side effects of the medication.

In his assessment of the situation, of the state of the mother and her shooting and killing her two sons, Savov concluded that on that day she acted totally out of her character, as she was a loving mother and happy wife.

But the State said it would argue that she exaggerated the amount of medication she took and that she knew what she was doing when she shot her children.

The case is proceeding.

Pretoria News