The Herald (South Africa)
Son’s search for peace after tragedy
Eighteen months after the brutal murder of George and Cobi Venter shook Port Elizabeth, their children are due to intern her ashes and to commemorate the Christmas that meant so much to their mother especially. One of their sons, Andre Venter, this week t
IT has been 18 months since that day, June 1, 2009, when the only words Andre Venter could find to describe the scene in his parents’ house were “evil exploded there”.
He and his brothers were pushed into the dark side when their father, George, and Cobi Venter, who many described as “an angel on Earth”, were brutally murdered.
Crime scene pictures show a blustery winter day, with the curtains blowing through broken windows. The Venters had none of the modernday security gadgets people nowadays surround themselves with.
The real horror, however, awaited inside. Police tape blew in the wind as the scene inside the walls moved a hardened police detective to tears.
There was blood on the walls, on the ceiling, on the floor.
George’s body was under the piano, beaten to death with a hammer, a sculpture and a bloody golf club.
Cobi was found near the front door, raped, badly beaten and barely alive. She was taken to hospital in a coma where she spent the next 10 days, suspended between life and death.
During this time detectives worked night and day to catch the perpetrators. Those arrested included Vuyo Plaatjies, a former caddy at Humewood Golf Course, often used by George when playing a round.
At the time of the murders one of the Venters’ sons, Andre, was building his dream house on a beautiful property about 5km from his parents’ home. As an artist and fashion designer, Andre often spent time abroad and was in Greece when he heard the news.
Plunged into darkness and despair by the excessively violent attack, he rushed to his mother’s bedside. It was here, while torn between willing his mother to live and finding the courage to let her go, that Andre first saw the light again.
“I realised that we had to let her go. We all came. It was only when all her children came to tell her that it would be okay if she went, that she closed her eyes and left.
“I have forgiven the men who did this. When they first appeared in court, I was apprehensive about what I would feel when I saw them, but I felt nothing. No anger, no hatred. I felt nothing.”
But the house where his parents were killed haunted him.
“I kept on thinking what they went through, what they saw. Did my mother see my father being tortured to death? What must she have thought? How did she feel?”
Today the house, which is up for sale now, stands as a memory to his grief at the time.
“I could not create anything. I did not have it in me.”
What he did do was to refurbish the house, leaving the remodelled version of his childhood home as a memory to his grief. A firm believer in destiny, Andre’s battles with the past began about three years before the fateful night in June. In 2006, he returned from overseas to his breathtakingly beautiful property, to build a house, confront the demons of a difficult childhood and spend the last three years of his parents’ lives with them.
Of course he did not know it at the time. “I thought that buying a prop- erty in South Africa would be a good investment and growing up as an eccentric schoolboy and artist in Port Elizabeth’s conservative society and later as a left-wing student, hunted by the security police, I wanted to come back and confront the demons I left behind here.”
It turned out that there was a much worse type of darkness waiting for him. “I now know that I was meant to stay and spend the last years of my parents’ life with them.”
Eighteen months later, Venter is getting ready to leave South Africa again. “After my parents died I realised more and more that my time here is done.”
But first he and his family will intern his mother’s ashes on Christmas Day this year.
“Christmas was very special to my mother. Family was everything to her. At Christmas time she would create a very special family togetherness.
“The first Christmas after her death we did not celebrate at all. It was too painful. This year we only plan this little ceremony.”
Sitting under a giant old coral tree outside his house, Andre says that he has found peace again.
“But my mother, who was a wonderful person, is still gone.”