A father allegedly killed his four children because he thought his wife was cheating on him.
Police apparently turned away the mother, Sylvia Monyela, when she went to report that he had taken the children without her consent on Saturday – four days before they were found dead.
The Phasha children – Katlego, 9, Joyce, 7, Tshepo, 5, and Adel, 3 – were found dead at two separate locations in GaPhasha-Selatole village outside Burgersfort in Limpopo on Tuesday.
“The bodies of the three children [Katlego, Joyce and Tshepo] had five-inch nails in their heads and necks, while the youngest one was bludgeoned to death with a huge stone,” said the father’s relative Nkwane Phasha.
The father arrived at the house where the mother was staying with her grandmother, Deborah Monyela, on Saturday armed with a panga and a knife. The children and their mother had moved out of the house they shared with the man a week earlier.
“The father came into the yard and asked for the children. I did not respond because he is a violent person. He took the children and left,” said the grandmother.
Police said the children were taken from their scholar transport on Monday afternoon. Spokesperson Brig Motlafela Mojapelo said the driver knew the father and stopped the car and let them go with him.
Phasha, 47, said while they were searching for the man and the children they could not find them, he received an SMS from the father.
“He sent me a text message to inform me about the deaths of the children and the location of their bodies. When I followed up on his information, I was shocked to find three children placed at one spot in a trench not far from their house,” he said.
Phasha said Adel’s body was found near the mountain not far from her great-grandmother’s house.
He said the family suspected that the father had used either a hammer or stone to push the nails into the children’s heads and necks.
Mojapelo said the 52-year-old father was arrested for murders on Tuesday night.
Phasha said the suspect told him that he killed the children to keep them safe from their “cheating and irresponsible” mother.
“He accused his wife of cheating and that she would go for days and he would not know her whereabouts, leaving the children under his care. He insisted that his wife had pushed him to kill the children and he was ready to pay for his crimes.”
Sowetan has learnt that a few hours before the murders took place, the suspect posted a status on social media, accusing his wife of 10 years of cheating and named the man he claimed she was involved with.
The children’s mother was taken to a place of safety on Tuesday after the bodies were discovered. She has not returned home.
However, Monyela’s relative refuted allegations that she neglected the children and said she had tried her best to protect them.
Her cousin Nelly Motebejane, 38, said when Monyela came home on Saturday and was informed that the father had taken the children, she went to the police but was turned away.
“She wanted to obtain a protection order against her husband but police told her to go to Praktiseer magistrate’s court – 50km away,” Motebejane said.
She said Monyela didn’t have money for transport and police refused to accompany her.
“She came back home and was heartbroken. If police had helped her, the children would still be alive,” she said.
Mojapelo said they had not received any complaint regarding Monyela being turned away and said they would investigate and take steps against whoever may have turned her away.
Phasha said: “It was last week when the couple fought and the wife left the house. I was then delegated to convince her to come back but she refused, saying the man is abusing her.”
He said he then advised Monyela to seek help from social workers or police. “He has too much anger and was very temperamental towards his wife. And when they fought, he would apologise by buying her a phone and clothes.”
Phasha said the suspect was unemployed and had been renting his property to business people.
The man was expected to appear in the Mecklenburg magistrate’s court on four counts of murder today.