Exactly two years after Fr. Liezel de Jager’s lifeless body was found in the driveway of her home in Amanzimtoti, there has still been no progress in the investigation into her murder. For her father, who himself worked as a policeman for two decades, the incompetence and disrespect with which the police handle his daughter’s case is a bitter pill to swallow.
De Jager was brutally strangled to death in her yard on 13 October 2021. She was on her way home after a jogging session with her friends. It was the last time the beloved reverend was seen alive.
Her body was later found by her husband in their yard, but none of Liezel’s personal items, including her mobile phone and wallet, were stolen, making it clear that the perpetrator’s sole intention was to end her life.
According to Action Society, police officers and detectives are “either too lazy or too incompetent to complete a proper investigation”.
“We knew from day one that evidence from Liezel’s body and information on Liezel’s watch and laptop could lead to a breakthrough.
“The compilation of reports on this should require ongoing police work, but two years later, to our knowledge, the forensic analysis of Liezel’s laptop, her Garmin wristwatch and a seized mobile phone is still not complete,” says Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society.
According to Cameron, Liezel’s husband, Werner de Jager, is a person of interest and may have information that could lead to an arrest.
“Detectives compiled a list of questions for Liezel’s husband months ago and insisted that he answer the questions under a polygraph test, but the police never followed up when he failed to respond or show up.”
“Our patience is running out and Action Society is considering legal action to force the police to do their job. We escalated Liezel’s case to the National Inspectorate of the Police months ago and have repeatedly followed up.”
Cameron says that apart from acknowledging receipt, no feedback has been received.
Liezel’s father, Henk van Zyl, also regularly follows up with the investigators and the senior officials.
He says he just wants the police to do their job.
“At the beginning I worked very well with the police, I am a former colonel myself and although I have not been a detective in my 22 years, I have a reasonable theoretical background of it.
“As a family, we decided not to bring in private investigators, because we believe that when too many people are involved in a case, evidence and important information can get mixed up and a good case can be lost.”
However, Van Zyl believes that there were signs from the beginning of the case that “something is not good”.
“Evidence was found in the house, including a beanie my daughter was wearing that had blood on it. The police simply never took it in for investigations. I could clearly see hair on it which I assumed was my daughter’s. I later handed it over to the investigating officer myself, and this is just a single example.”
Van Zyl says Liezel’s body was also not present at her memorial service, because the police realized at the last moment that more tests had to be done before she could be cremated.
“When Liezel’s body was made available to the funeral home, I contacted the police and reminded them that they must make sure that all the necessary tests are done on her body, because she is going to be cremated. He assured me that everything was fine and that everything was done professionally.
“A few hours later, the funeral home calls me to inform me that the police want the body back for further investigations.
Van Zyl says the police’s communication with him and his family is extremely sad and the lack of progress is frightening. “The one time I received written feedback from head office about the progress of the case, it was all outdated information, I was already aware of that.
“We don’t expect special treatment, we just expect that the people who have been appointed will do their job,” says Van Zyl.
He says that these days he feels ashamed to say that he used to be a senior officer in the police.
He and his family will celebrate De Jager’s second birthday after her death on Friday.
“We are broken and we will always remain broken about our child. We want to remember what was good about her and that what she left behind is still good.
“We want her to be remembered as someone who took advantage of her 38 years and started each day with a smile.”
Cameron says Action Society will continue to support Liezel’s family until the case is resolved.
“Her case is like hundreds of other cases where the broken justice system fails victims and their families.
“Liezel’s family deserves closure. Liezel deserves justice. At this time, it is the very people who are supposed to serve justice who are delaying it. We demand a higher standard.”