Thursday, 17 January 2008

'Mom, something just snapped'

Johan Nel, 18, with the gun allegedly used in the attack. (Beeld)

17/01/2008 09:02 - (SA)

Carla Mouton, Beeld

Johannesburg - "Mom, something snapped inside me," were the words of a young man to his mother before he was arrested for shooting and killing three people in a squatter camp in the North West province.

Corrie Nel, mother of Johan Nel, 18, said her son had "snapped".

"If you knew him, you would know that he did not act rationally."

She said he had been attacked in 2003 when he was 14, "by a black man with a sickle", after which he had shot at the man; in another incident seven years ago he had been traumatised by an attack on his brother on their farm; last Sunday he had heard about an incident in which burglars had apparently pumped gas into the room where a friend's wife and her three-week-old baby were; and on Monday morning he'd heard of another attack on a farm in their area.

'Seriously injured'

She said she hadn't had a chance to properly talk to her son after the shooting at the squatter camp, but Johan had told her: "Mom, something snapped inside me."

Nel was on Tuesday arrested for shooting and killing three residents of the Skielik squatter camp about 3km from their house on the farm Tweefontein.

He will appear in the Swartruggens court on Thursday on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Seven people were injured in the incident, three of them seriously.

Among the dead, was a baby girl of three months and a 10-year-old boy. They were shot with a .303 rifle.

Superintendent Louis Jacobs said Nel had been found guilty in 2003 of the negligent firing of a firearm after an incident with a man cutting the lawn.

Sentencing would have been postponed to this year if Nel was found guilty of another offence.

According to his mother, Johan at the time "only fired shots to defend himself".

She blamed herself for not arranging counselling at the time for Johan because he had been "already hysterical" after this incident as well as when his brother had been attacked in 2001 in their farmhouse.

Seven years ago, seven armed men attacked Johan's older brother Heinrich on a Sunday morning at their home.

The rest of the family was at church.

Heinrich fought back and managed to get a hold of his father's revolver and chase them away.

'No racism here'

The robbers told Heinrich they would wait for the whole family and kill everyone.

Afterwards, their plan was to attack another farmer in the area, Heinrich had told Beeld at the time.

"All of us were upset about this," said Heinrich on Wednesday.

According to his mother, Johan had become "physically ill" after hearing of the gas incident at his friend's house.

"Fortunately, they survived (the gas attack)."

She said she thought Johan had stomach flu afterwards, but now realised it was not that at all.

A resident of Swartruggens said some residents in town felt that "a thing was being made over the fact that we are a racist community, but there is no racism here. On the contrary, the farmers have given police their full co-operation in helping to find the suspect".


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