I seek justice for my daughter – A father’s plea from Henk van Zyl

By Chris Steyn

One morning in October 2021, Pastor Liezel de Jager went for a jog. She returned to her home only to be murdered. Her killer left her body at the back door. He is still free. Seeking justice for his daughter is Henk van Zyl, a former police colonel, a former Commander of the Police Academy in Graaff Reinet, and a former United Nations (UN) Project Manager in Police Reform. The bereaved father speaks to BizNews about the police investigation that has been dragging on for 581 days.


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Early one morning in October 2021, Pastor Liezel de Jager went for a jog. She returned to her home in KwaZulu-Natal only to be murdered. 

Her killer left her body at the back door of her house. He is still free.

Seeking justice for his daughter is Henk van Zyl, a former police colonel, a former Commander of the Police Academy in Graaff Reinet, and a former United Nations (UN) Project Manager in Police Reform.

The bereaved father speaks to BizNews about the police investigation that has been dragging on for 581 days. 

He says the basic investigations were not done in a “timely and professional” manner.

“You know, the rule of law is sacrosanct to me…It’s something that I lived for many, many years and am still living, still believing in. But I can tell you what we have experienced the last few months, approximately 17 months…To say that it’s a shocking experience, is to put it very mildly.”

Sharing his extensive communication with the police, Henk recalls: “At least 91 times I’ve been in contact. And that is excluding all WhatsApp calls and all telephone calls of the first nine months. That averages out to at least once a week. So from my side, I tried and I tried.”

He expresses his profound frustration at having to watch the investigation from the sidelines: “If I start interfering, I can inadvertently destroy evidence….make it inadmissible at court. And that’s why I decided to be close with the investigation, but not to interfere at all cost, to advise friends, family, not to interfere, and to give the police a fair chance.”

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At first, Henk had high hopes for the investigation which started “a little bit shaky, but not badly”. 

However, within days, the first investigator and his people were replaced by a “so-called high profile team of investigators, which turned out not really to be the case, but they were replaced by an investigator”. 

The new investigator – who “came across as experienced” – maintained “very good” communication at first. “But then over the next few weeks and months, communication became less and less.”

When Henk called him for an update, the investigator would “maybe eventually tell me a story of where the investigation is now and what he’s going to do very soon, either tomorrow or this afternoon or next week. And then two, three weeks later when there’s still nothing, I call him again and I get exactly the same story as if we haven’t had a chat before”.

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Henk eventually turned to the investigator’s supervisor at district level, a Colonel, who was “friendly and professional”. However, it “sort of appeared to me that he knows about the case, but he wasn’t really up to date on the finer detail, which was not really acceptable to me. Gave him a chance… a few weeks later, talked again, and excuses, excuses, excuses… Even after I communicated a number of incompetencies, inconsistencies rather, issues that are bothering me, things that are totally unacceptable…no real action that I was aware of.”

In December last year, Henk approached police headquarters by email. “And I set out the urgency. I set out the reasons – even the potential danger to our family and our grandchildren. And I requested that this investigation be carried on by this (Specialised Crime) unit which is exactly for this type of incident.  My request was not positively considered.  However, they immediately reacted, very professionally, informing me what the progress – according to the feedback of the investigator – is, which was nothing new to me. And it was referred back to KwaZulu-Natal in writing that a certain brigadier will most probably contact me shortly. That was on the 8th of December (2022). Since the 8th of December, I have had absolutely no communication from the police side.

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“Just imagine, the single parent sitting in a squatter camp. What justice is there for that person? Even walk down the street and talk to someone here in my neighbourhood that doesn’t have this, the knowledge or the access that I have. And please remember, I’ve said it over and over: I don’t want special treatment. I just want what every citizen in this country deserves.”

* BizNews has asked the investigator for an update on the case. He says the investigation is still ongoing; that he is still waiting for some DNA results; and that – once that is received – the docket will be referred to the Senior State Prosecutor (SSP) for a decision.

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