Life after teenager Rene-Tracey Roman’s untimely and tragic death would have been harder for her family if it wasn’t for the community’s support.
These were the words of Rene-Tracey’s mother Chrissandre Jacobs, 31, who said she was not as angry because community activist Lucinda Evans, from Philisa Abafazi Bethu, who is also the chairperson of Steenberg Community Police Forum, was at her and her husband Mervyn Jacobs’s side, from the time Rene-Tracey, 13, was reported missing until after her body was found on Tuesday March 21.
Southern Mail met Ms Jacobs, Mr Jacobs and Ms Evans at the opening of a new hall at Levana Primary School, where Rene-Tracey was a Grade 6 pupil. She said Rene would have been on stage with her fellow pupils to open the hall and sing the national anthem.
Ms Jacobs said Rene-Tracey was a quiet girl who did not have many friends. “She was a loner but she sang in the school choir.”
Ms Jacobs said she is very protective over her children, two young boys and one baby girl and has another baby on the way. “I am pregnant and baby is due in August or September.”
Rene-Tracey disappeared on Friday March 10, when she went to a shop down the road from their home in Montague Village, Lavender Hill. “It was 1.45pm and I was worried when she wasn’t back at 2pm. She was supposed to fetch my baby girl at a nearby creche. When she didn’t come back we called the police.”
Ms Jacobs said she assumes that because, “Rene was a very respectful person, when the perpetrator called her she probably listened to him because she respected people.”
A 50-year-old neighbour, Andrew Plaatjies, was arrested on Human Rights Day last week when Rene-Tracey’s body was found in a wendy house at the back of the house he shared with his partner.
Ms Jacobs said she was angry at first but Ms Evans came to their rescue and “she was by our side from day one.”
Ms Jacobs said she has been living in Lavender Hill for 20 years and she also attended Levana Primary School. She said she has been married to Mr Jacobs for 10 years.
When asked what advice she would give to other parents, she said “make sure you get to know your neighbours”.
Ms Evans said after supporting the parents while they were experiencing trauma, she made a pact to form a Rene Roman Search and Rescue Service to help families find missing children. “I wouldn’t want another child to go missing. I would like everyone on board such as trauma counsellors, paramedics and other services, that can help us in cases of missing children.”
Ms Evans said the future plan is to partner with schools with after-care programmes.
Meanwhile, a case of public violence was opened by Steenberg police when the community became violent on Thursday March 23 at about noon when police took the suspect to the crime scene in St Agatha Street where Rene’s body was found, as part of the investigation. This was cut short when the community saw the man and a crowd of about a thousand angry residents started stoning police cars and a petrol bomb was thrown at one of the police vehicles, apparently aiming for the suspect.
Eventually police had to disperse the crowd with rubber bullets and stun grenades and the investigation had to be suspended.
Steenberg police spokesperson Warrant Officer John Bartlett said four police vehicles were damaged and six officers were injured.
“The community are warned to allow the police to do their work. Taking the law into your own hands is a criminal offence punishable by law,” said Warrant Officer Bartlett.
Mr Plaatjies appeared at the Wynberg Magistrate’s court on the same afternoon and will appear again on Wednesday April 4.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact Steenberg police at 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop at 086 001 0111.