Visagie can find some peace at last

Published Aug 11, 2004


While the pain of having killed his own child remains, former Springbok rugby player Rudi "Vleis" Visagie will find peace in the fact that he is not to be charged with her murder.

The anguished father, who accidentally killed his daughter three months ago, is believed to have suffered enough.

Visagie shot his only daughter Marlé, 19, on May 23 after mistaking her for a car thief. He was charged with culpable homicide after she died of her injuries.

"The family are elated. They have prayed so much and trusted God throughout, and something good has now happened," said Susan Baird, a close family friend and the appointed spokesman for the Visagies.

The accidental shooting happened early on a Sunday after Visagie and his wife Frieda were woken at dawn by the sound of their daughter's Golf being driven off their smallholding in Maggiesdal just outside Nelspruit.

Thinking the car was being stolen, Visagie grabbed his gun and fired a shot at the driver, but it was Marlé who was behind the wheel.

She was hit in the neck, and rushed to the Nelspruit Medi-Clinic, where she was pronounced dead.

Marlé, who worked at a firm of attorneys in Nelspruit as an administrative clerk, had been on her way to pay a dawn visit to her boyfriend Brand Pretorius on his birthday.

Visagie handed himself over to the local police station. He was released on bail after being charged with murder. The Nelspruit community then rallied around him. At Marlé's funeral mourners were encouraged to help fund Visagie's legal battle.

Baird said that while the Visagies had been completely devastated by Marlé's death, they "kept their faith throughout the trauma. The whole community supported them in prayer", said Baird.

Baird said a woman had contacted her last Friday to let her know that she and her two sisters wanted to remind the Visagies that they were praying for them daily.

"These are the kind of messages we still receive, and from people we don't even know," Baird said, adding that it was soon after she received that call that Rudi and Frieda were told that the pending criminal charges were to be dropped.

"They are so pleased. It's not like this takes away from their heartbreak or sorrow, but it gives them the peace of mind to continue with the grieving process."

Baird said close friends had often visited the Visagies since the incident and would regularly speak about "the accident and share our fond memories of Marlé".

Visagie's attorney Tom Dreyer confirmed that the charges would be dropped at Visagie's next court appearance on September 6.

Dreyer, in a submission to the prosecuting authority, argued that Visagie should not be prosecuted on humanitarian grounds as the death of his daughter had been punishment enough.

Steve Tuson of the Wits Law Clinic applauded the decision. "If the facts as portrayed in the media, that there was a genuine mistaking of circumstances and that it was reasonable for him to assume that the car was being stolen, then strictly speaking his conduct was negligent.

"Any punishment the court may well impose can in no way approach the punishment Visagie must put on himself. He must be living a thousand agonies every single day," he said.

Makhosini Nkosi, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, confirmed that Visagie would not be prosecuted.

"There's no doubt that Visagie's culpability in the matter can be argued successfully in court, but we believe that justice wouldn't ultimately be served.

"He has been through traumatic circumstances, and his pain would only have been aggravated by his part in her death. We feel he has learned a hard lesson and the courts cannot achieve more than that," he said.

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