The death of 13-year-old Jerobejin van Wyk has opened up old wounds and put a spotlight on cold cases in the quiet town of Klawer.
As a DNA test confirmed that the human remains found on murder-accused Daniel Smit’s property belonged to the dead teen, community leaders said it was not the first time that human remains had been found in or close to the town.
Police found human remains on the R27 in August last year but have not identified whose it was yet.
A source close to the investigation told Weekend Argus that the police found the remains outside Klawer on a farm, but were unable to do DNA tests.
“Police forensics are currently busy constructing a facial identity of the skeleton. They do not know the identity of the remains yet, but will release information as they receive it.”
The source said police were made aware that the community of Klawer were trying to link the 2019 disappearance of eight-year-old disabled Jeneva Diergal and Janine Bottom, 28, to Smit.
The source said: “I can also confirm that police looked at the possibilities but did not find any link. I do not believe that that man went around looking for children and if he admitted to killing Jerobejin and four other people in Sea Point, he would have admitted he had anything to do with the two girls as well.”
The source added that a captain from Vredendal was called out to investigate the cold cases of Bottom and Jeneva.
However, community leaders and the family of the missing girls felt the police should be better trained and equipped to deal with such cases.
Jeneva’s aunt, Maria “Maxie” Jantjies, told Weekend Argus the police should have prioritised her niece’s and Bottom’s cases. “They did the same thing with us as they did with Jerobejin’s mother. They sent us home when we went to report her as missing. Instead we went out to look for her.
“The next day the same thing happened. We went looking without police support. Then the helicopter was called out for a small while but didn’t even circle long before stopping. When we asked I remember they said that diesel was running low.
“Why is it that we have been forgotten and neglected in this town?”
Jantjies said Jerobejin’s story put the focus on the town.
“It’s a bitter-sweet situation, a mother lost her child and old wounds were opened up again. But it also put our town in the spotlight and opened up these cold cases that probably would have been forgotten.
“For three years we’ve been praying. That’s all we could do because we never got answers. I still believe she is alive out there somewhere. I can feel it, just like Jerobejin’s mother felt her son isn’t with us anymore, I feel Jeneva is still alive.”
Jantjies said the investigating officer was supposed to meet with the families on Friday.
“We just want closure, whether she is found safe or, God forbid, dead, at least we will have peace.”
Monica Bottom, Janine Bottom’s sister, was still too traumatised to speak to the media, explaining that the family never prepared themselves for the reality that her sister may have died.
“We still hold on to hope even though the case went so quiet.”
When Smit was arrested the Patriotic Alliance in the Western Cape released a media statement condemning the “poor” service at the Klawer police station.
The party intervened and obtained feedback from the police that the cases would be investigated further.
Patriotic Alliance deputy provincial leader Sammy Claasen said the police authorities in the Western Cape then heeded calls for a fresh investigation into the Klawer disappearances.
“This will give some insight and closure to the affected families. We call on anyone who have some information to come forward. The Klawer police station needs a complete overhaul. We cannot rest until these cases have been solved and the families are at peace.”
Founder and coordinator of NGO Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement and the Sisterhood Movement, Wendy Pekeur, however, believed that the police were not equipped to deal with matters of this nature.
“There is a lot of trauma, the community is in mourning. In this week there was a lot of panic about a 11 year old who disappeared. He was found later in the afternoon.
“People gathered in numbers at the police station singing hymns, praying and asking God to help them. The truth is there is little money for police in poor areas and there is also little money for extra mural activities and recreation for children and youth. ”
A police source said police in smaller towns had to speak up to get the help and equipment they needed.
Jerobejin’s funeral will be held on Saturday, at 9am in Klawer Community Hall .