Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
‘This isn’t the same Volkwyn I knew’
Former student and neighbours tell of the inspirational lecturer and loner who shot a policeman and then himself
FAMILY, neighbours and a past student of Michael Volkwyn, the reclusive Athlone man who killed himself after shooting a policeman, have described the retired mechanical engineer and former lecturer as a brilliant, inspirational man, and a very private person. But others have painted a picture of a troubled loner who felt the need to defend himself.
Fayroz Sha Khatieb, a former student of Volkwyn’s, who had lectured at at Peninsula Technikon in the 1970s and 1980s, said Volkwyn inspired a generation of engineers.
“He had an unorthodox style of teaching. He never used textbooks. He chucked the textbook in the bin. He always derived his own formulas. He was clever,” said Khatieb.
“He stuttered but he was a good teacher. His subject knowledge stood out. He was one of the few guys that could relate theoretical work to practical work. He was very motivational.
“He encouraged us to expand our careers. From our class, we have top managers. He inspired us.”
Khatieb added: “I saw an article about a guy that killed himself and thought this could not be the same guy. This is not the guy that I knew.”
Larry Lewis knew Volkwyn for decades, and said his neighbour “wasn’t a disturbance to the neighbours”.
“When you know the person, you see him differently. Michael was brilliant. He studied at UCT. That was during the apartheid era and it wasn’t easy for coloured people to study there,” said Lewis.
“He was the type of person who wouldn’t give up or surrender. There are question marks about whether he shot himself. I don’t think he would have given up and done that.”
Lewis said Volkwyn built a memorial in his garden for his late father who was a lawyer. He said at night the memorial would be lit.
“He was very protective over his things. He chained his pot plants down (to his property). He put up signs to scare people off. Maybe he felt insecure and felt that he needed to defend himself,” said Lewis.
Larry’s wife, Marylin Lewis, said Volkwyn “was just a very private person”.
“Make no mistake, he was a troubled soul. But he troubled no one else,” she said.
“When he started a garden he had roses. And he gave a rose to every woman that walked past.
“He had so many roses. That’s the memory that I have of Michael.”
She recalled the time when Volkwyn was arrested for shooting arrows at his neighbours.
“The time that he shot the MICHAEL Volkwyn, 61, is believed to have shot himself in the head when police entered his house.
Police and law enforcement officials had been investigating a complaint that Volkwyn’s dog had attacked a tenant on his property, when Volkwyn shot police Constable Leroy Scott, 29, in the face on Tuesday night.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said yesterday Scott was recovering at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands.
“He is in the ICU section of the hospital. There’s an investigation of attempted murder against (Volkwyn) after he shot Scott in the face,” said Van Wyk.
“An inquest has also been opened. When we (police) entered the house the old man (Volkwyn) shot himself.”
Volkwyn’s siblings on Friday appealed to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to investigate the events that led to their brother’s death.
Van Wyk said: “It’s their right to do that. They were there with us on the scene. I don’t want to elaborate on that.”
Rob Volkwyn said his arrows, he was a little bit troubled. He could not take noise. When the children were playing cricket and making a noise he could not take that. Then he shot the arrows,” she said.
“When he heard noise, he would walk around with a baseball bat and ask, ‘Can’t you hear the noise?’ But I really have no bad things to say about Michael.” brother had been paranoid about the police. He and his two sisters alleged that police had beaten Volkwyn on previous occasions.
Neighbours said police wanted to access Volkwyn’s house a number of times to remove his 13 dogs from the property on Albemarle Road in Hazendal, Athlone.
Neighbour Qanitah Jacobs, who saw the police confrontation with Volkwyn, said tenants often struggled to
Another neighbour, Shurud Jacobs, said Volkwyn “didn’t worry anyone”.
“He was like those funny people who have butterflies and dream catchers in their house. He had a lot of dogs and you could see all these things in his garden,” he said.
“If he wasn’t in a good mood, he would tell the tenants to move out. He would go into their house and take get their goods from Volkwyn “because of his dogs”.
“He was strange. He never used to greet people. If people stood around his property he would tell them to get away. He was just alone all the time and with his dogs.”
She added: “One time he walked with the dogs he had a big sword in his pocket. That was a bit scary.”
“The last tenant laid a charge against him (Volkwyn) with the police. their clothes and put it out on the street. He would never open his door. There were always signs that said ‘Don’t enter’. He wouldn’t make a conversation with you. He never had visitors over.”
Jacobs added: “He was a bit crazy but I don’t think he’s that stupid to commit suicide… When the task force arrived, it’s like they just came to do a mission. The dogs attacked her. She was standing on the roof of her car. We then used a water hose to get the dogs away from her,” said Jacobs.
“Since that time, the police wanted to come into his house to take the dogs away. The tenant laid a charge against him and left the property last month. The police came with her to remove her goods from the property.”
Jacobs said Volkwyn did not want the police to remove the dogs and “kept the dogs inside the house with him”.
“Eventually they came on to his property (on Tuesday). We saw smoke bombs and heard gunshots. Then we saw someone (Scott) carried off the property,” she said.
“Police officers came on to my property and asked if they could look on to his property. They said he shot a police officer in the face.
“The whole night they were trying to let him come out. The next morning we heard gunshots again and glass breaking.
“Then we heard that he was dead.”
Jacobs said Volkwyn “just kept to himself”.
“We only had a problem with his dogs. They used to bark at night and tried to attack people who walked past his house,” she said.
“They pulled up and walked out five minutes later. Then they said he was dead and he killed himself. That was after police were trying for 12 hours to get him out of the house.”
Volkwyn will be buried tomorrowafter a funeral service at Lady of Help Christian Church on Imam Haroon Road in Lansdowne at 1pm.