No justice for Justin

Judges gavel and law books stacked behind

The Company’s Garden used to be a place that Marian Kortjie took her children to feed squirrels, play and relax – until last year, when it became the place her son was murdered.

Now, more than 10 months after Justin Kortjie, 25, was stabbed to death after the Festival of the Lights in the early hours of Monday December 3, Ms Kortjie is still seeking answers, saying that the police have failed her (“Festive lights aftermath”, CapeTowner, December 6, 2018).

The letter she received from the Western Cape Police Ombudsman last week seems to be the only silver lining in her search for details about her son’s murder.

Part of the letter, which was shown to the CapeTowner, reads: “A preliminary investigation was conducted into the allegations and wrongdoing was found on the part of SAPS. The outcome has been communicated to the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS.”

Spokesperson for the office of the ombudsman, Deirdré Foster, said they were not able to discuss the confidential details of the investigation.

She, however, confirmed that the investigation was complete, but that acting on the recommendations would be done at the discretion of the provincial police commissioner.

“It must be noted that we cannot prescribe to the provincial commissioner in terms of the type of disciplinary action which must be taken. We can only ask that the commissioner takes appropriate action.”

The SAPS provincial commissioner’s office said the investigating officer had been addressed in line with “SAPS Discipline Regulations” but did not specify what the outcome was.

Ms Kortjie’s struggle to get answers from the police started a few days after her son’s body was found in the garden on Monday December 3. She had only found out on Wednesday December 5 that he had been stabbed to death.

“A few days after he was murdered, we went to lay a wreath at the place they found him. The garden used to be our place – we always used to come here, but there I was, heavy-hearted, as I sat for hours on the bench trying to make sense of his death.”

She said the alarm bells went off when the police received footage of the attack from a nearby museum, and they were told by the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Jeremy Steyn, that Justin had been sitting on a bench with two men. “When we viewed the footage, it was nothing like the detective told us. There were more than six men attacking my son. We were shocked that we were lied to,” Ms Kortjie said.

She said she watched as her son, who had a black belt in karate, was stabbed in front of a crowd. “There were many people watching. Justin didn’t even fight back – which was surprising because he knew how to defend himself.”

A series of WhatsApp messages exchanged between Cape Town Central SAPS members Warrant Officer Jeremy Steyn and Captain Yolanda Kotze, which was seen by the CapeTowner, shows how Ms Kortjie requested, via text message, updates on the case at least every three weeks.

She was told that Warrant Officer Steyn was waiting for forensic evidence from the labs, and that it would take six months. However, on one occasion when she followed up, he was off sick, and on another, he was on leave.

She then decided to lay a complaint, and Captain Kotze then gave her the number of another officer to whom she had to give a statement. “We have been passed on from person to person. It has been 10 months since my child has been killed, and we are still waiting for the results of the forensic tests.

“I have huge respect for the law. I understand the workload and the backlogs, but I feel like officer Steyn didn’t go the extra mile to help find his killer.”

She said as she received information about the night from people who may have seen her son, Ms Kortjie sent it to the investigating officer. However, she said, the information did not reflect in the docket. “Another girl was stabbed in the garden that same night. I sent her information to him, but he didn’t even follow up, nor did he let us know what was happening.”

The messages also showed a meeting being scheduled between the parties in August. However, it didn’t materialise, and Warrant Officer Steyn was booked off sick.

She said when they asked to see the footage again, it seemed much shorter than the original version, which they are still trying to access.

Ms Kortjie said she was disappointed that this couldn’t bring closure. “We were already cheated out of a fair process when our daughter was killed, now we have to go through it all again.”

In 2013 her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Keshia, was also murdered. Her body was found wrapped in a sheet near to the family’s home in Factreton.

Her throat had been slit. Up until the day before her daughter’s killer was found guilty, she said, they had been in the dark about how she died.

She said to her knowledge, Justin was not a gangster, and did not use drugs. “He was everyone’s friend, and he loved to joke around. He always supported his friends and stood by them, and his daughter was everything to him.”

Cape Town Central police spokesperson, Captain Ezra October, said the complaint was being taken seriously and that it had been thoroughly investigated at the Cape Town Central complaints desk by Captain Yolanda Kotze.

“We can confirm that we have conducted various visits and meetings with the complainants and the investigator is aware of the involvement of the office of the Western Cape Police Ombudsman and IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) to assist with the flow of the investigation.”

He said due to the sensitive nature of the case, the complaint had been referred to the provincial complaints desk.

Police provincial spokesperson, Colonel Andrè Traut, said the office of the provincial commissioner was aware of the Western Cape Police Ombudsman’s investigation into the allegation that Cape Town Central SAPS had allegedly failed the complainant with regards to the investigation of her son’s murder.

He said that because the ombudsman had investigated, they will not duplicate his efforts.

“It must, however, be noted that the complainant had lodged a complaint directly with SAPS in April this year, where she alleged that Cape Town Central SAPS had failed to provide feedback on and follow-up information in her son’s murder case. This matter was investigated by SAPS and the allegations were found to have merit. The investigating officer was addressed in terms of SAPS Discipline Regulations.

“Feedback was provided to the complainant and she acknowledged that the matter was addressed to her satisfaction.”

The CapeTowner also asked why the lab results had been delayed for so long, but police did not respond to this query.