In memory of a ‘gentle’ officer

Praying colleagues of Sergeant Donavan Prins, at his memorial service.

There wasn’t a dry eye at the memorial service for Sergeant Donavan Prins on Friday June 28, as colleagues and family paid tribute to the brave crime fighter.

Sergeant Prins was shot in the line of duty in Lavender Hill, on Monday June 24.

The memorial service started with a wreath-laying ceremony at Steenberg police station where he worked and was followed by a commemoration of his life and his achievements, at the Retreat civic centre.

Constable Wesley Twigg, spokesperson for Steenberg police, confirmed that Sergeant Prins was shot at 11.15pm. “Sergeant Prins was the shift commander of the Crime Prevention Unit and was busy with patrols with his partner when they came under attack.”

He said Sergeant Prins was admitted to Melomed Hospital in Tokai where he later died due to his injuries.

The civic hall was packed as the community came to pay tribute to Sergeant Prins.

Overcome with emotion, Steenberg police Vispol commander, Lieutenant Colonel André Saulse spoke about Sergeant Prins’s career. He had been promoted to sergeant in 2016.

Lieutenant Colonel Saulse said Sergeant Prins had been dedicated and disciplined since he started at Steenberg police. He had been responsible for the arrest of 1 245 suspects. These included 40 arrests for firearms, 12 for murder and eight for attempted murder.

Sergeant Prins had also been instrumental in the arrest of 21 suspects in connection with firearms in August last year. “His group was the leading group in those arrests,” said Lieutenant Colonel Saulse.

He recalled the day Sergeant Prins was shot. “On Monday (June 24) Prins applied for leave. But we had a double murder that morning. I said, ‘Prins there are two suspects and we have the evidence. We have to get the suspects first then you can go on leave’. He said okay.

“About 8pm he called me to say they had received information about an address and they needed to contact the cluster office to get extra manpower.

“Normally I will receive an update at 11pm where they will send me a picture of the suspect via WhatsApp. But 10pm and 11pm went by and there was no message.”

He said he received a call from Sergeant Prins’s wife Shaldene, who said, “Colonel, they shot my husband,”

“Every year this volcano erupts (violence) and it disrupts the community,” said Lieutenant Colonel Saulse, “but every year I can depend on a group of officers to go out there, who don’t think of themselves.

“I am proud of Prins for what he did in the line of duty. He put his life on the line for his community where he grew up in Seawinds.”

Lieutenant Colonel Saulse said police officers sacrifice their lives and cannot allow crime to spiral out of control. “The law must take its course,” he said.

Southern Mail spoke to Sergeant Prins’s grieving mother, Rachel Prins after the service.

She said her son will always be remembered as a friendly person who was well liked in the community and a caring son.

She said he had visited her in hospital every night since she had her foot amputated on June 3.

“I last saw him on Sunday but he called me on Monday to say that he couldn’t make it. I told him it was okay. And we (she and her husband Richard) always tell him to be careful.“

She said Sergeant Prins never spoke about his work.

When asked why he became a policeman, she said: “I remember when he was in Standard 6 he was robbed. But he never told us until two days later when I asked what happened to his watch. He said they took his watch. When he said that he will make sure they will never rob him again, that was probably a sign that he would be in the police force.”

Ms Prins said Sergeant Prins didn’t know immediately what to do after he
passed matric.

He attended Zerilda Park Primary and Steenberg High schools.

“His father sent out application forms to different places. He was then accepted in the police force. Donavan was very good at training and he was the fastest and fittest. He could jump the fastest over a wall,” said Ms Prins.

She said she will miss his visits. After he got married, he was never a stranger and visited her very often. “During his six years of marriage, he still came to see me. He and his two sisters are also very close, and they also saw each other on a regular basis.”

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg Community Police Forum (CPF), paid tribute to an “officer and a gentleman”.

Mr Walbrugh said he knew Sergeant Prins when he became involved in the neighbourhood watch and later as a member of the CPF. 

“Sergeant Prins was a very quiet-natured gentleman with a serious smile who I believe served the community of Steenberg policing precinct with pride. He was a true leader in his crime prevention unit and led by example and never shirked his responsibility as a police officer. He made it his mission to rid our society of this evil of gangsterism and drugs that are plaguing our community.”

He said Sergeant Prins was a hard worker who left a legacy and had set the bar high for his colleagues.

* The community of Lavender Hill and surrounds had an open meeting on Sunday June 30, at the church behind Hillwood Primary School, to discuss the violence and shooting in their areas.

Faizel Suleiman from MY inc (Muslim Youth), who are working towards developing youth into leaders, said he called the meeting to discuss a way forward.

“The shootings and violence is going from bad to worse. We wanted to take the law in our own hands, but we are going to do it the legal way first. We will be having another meeting to pick a delegation (to form a steering committee) but the date is not confirmed yet.”

Mr Walbrugh also attended the meeting and said there is a need for extra forces to stop the violence, including the help of the army.

However, he said, the community also need to play their part to tackle the existing problems. “We see too many young children running around who are supposed to be in aftercare. What do we do about this? If we don’t talk about this we will be sitting with this horrible evil around us.”

* Constable Twigg sent a message from the management of Steenberg police where they strongly condemned the killing of Sergeant Prins. He said they will leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators to book. “We want to send our sincere condolences to the family and colleagues,” he said.

Anyone with any information about the shooting can call Steenberg SAPS on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.