Friday, January 21, 2011
Even in death, Doomsday couple a mystery
January 21 2011 at 09:47am
By Melanie Gosling
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A police warrant officer from the dog unit jumps over the fence after French couple Philippe Meniere, 60, and his partner Agnes Jardel, 55, were found dead after a shootout with police in the farmhouse in the background. Police found ammunition and a bullet maker at the French couple s house (left). Photo: Michael Walker
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The search is over, the dust has settled, and the mysterious French couple who came to settle on a farm outside this tiny Karoo town over a decade ago, are dead.
With their death ends a massive manhunt, where over 70 police officers with highly trained trackers and dogs searched a 3 000ha farm on foot and from the air, for six days.
In the end, the couple, who astonishingly managed to remain at large for so long, had crept back almost to the place they had come from, and holed up in a vacant farmhouse a few hundred metres from the farmhouse in which they had lived for 12 years.
Not only near their old home, but almost right under the noses of the investigating team, who had set up their operational headquarters in the farmhouse next door to the French couple’s home.
It’s all over, but no one is nearer the truth of finding out just who were Philippe Meniere, 60, and his partner, Agnes Jardel, 55. What were they about? How did this couple, who came to Sutherland to get away from city life and to escape “the system”, who seemed so peaceful and who would “not even kill a snake”, end up shooting a young police officer dead last Friday?
Then Meniere, with Jardel shooting from their house, wounded another police officer in the back, and when the remaining two policemen and two civilians fled, they climbed into one of the men’s bakkies and reportedly tried to hunt them as the men ran for their lives, leaping over bushes and dodging bullets.
After evading police for six days, French couple Philippe Meniere and Agnes Jardel were killed after a shootout with police in an abandoned farmhouse just a stone s throw from where they lived. Photo: Michael Walker
The couple may have had more deaths on their hands, but the bakkie got stuck, the men got away, and the French couple fled into the veld.
What had sparked the seemingly crazy behaviour? If the police know, they are not saying, nor are Jaen and Cobus du Plessis, sons of Gerhardus, who owned the farm on which the couple lived.
The little information that can be gathered about the couple is that Meniere was a medical doctor, trained in France, who had come to South Africa in the 1980s. Police said he had worked at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and at Coronation Hospital in Johannesburg.
Little is known about Jardel. She told the Du Plessis family that she had been in advertising.
The couple came to Sutherland about 12 years ago, and rented a house in the town. It’s a tiny dorp, and Gerhardus du Plessis soon got to know them. When it became apparent that they wanted to find a farm to live on, he offered them the original farmhouse on his property, 22km outside Sutherland. Du Plessis himself did not live on the farm, as he also ran a construction business with his son, Cobus in town. It apparently suited him to have the couple on the farm for security.
Du Plessis was divorced at the time. The family got to know them over the decade they lived there, but did not find out very much of their background – nor were they particularly forthcoming. They did, however, say they belonged to the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, and over discussions over the years, it became apparent that they believed that the end of the world was near, and even asked Du Plessis if he would build them a survival bunker. He laughed it off.
But they appeared to take the survival aspect seriously. In their house, police found stacks of tinned food, camping equipment, paraffin, gas bottles, candles, firelighters and water containers. That, and lots of equipment to make bullets.
The couple escaped with several weapons, and left behind in the safe Meniere’s passport and R8 000 cash.
What triggered the murder? Police say Du Plessis wanted to evict the couple from the house where he had allowed them to live rent-free. He had since married, and his new wife and his sons wanted to renovate the historic farmhouse for their own use.
The couple had apparently agreed to move by December, but did not. It is not clear why the Du Plessis family went to police last week, to tell them that they suspected that the couple had unlicensed weapons at their house, but it appears that this might have been to expedite their departure.
Four police officers, Cobus and his brother Jaen, went to the house last Friday. Police say Meniere was reasonable and handed over a mass of weapons. He apparently had had licences for them, but they had expired. Police put the weapons in their vehicle. This is where it becomes strange: police say Meniere said he did not feel well, leant over and pulled a handgun from his clothes and shot student officer Jacob Boleme, 27, dead. The others fled. He then shot a second officer, Glenwall du Toit in the back, wounding him. Jardel was shooting from the house.
Ironically, it was their committing murder that led to the couple having to survive in the Karoo veld, not any end of world scenario. In their possession was a book Don’t Die in the Bundu. A handy survival book, but not one that can offer advice on how to escape the biggest police manhunt the Northern Cape has seen. - Cape Times
Comments by Sonny
Outnumbered and Outgunned!
One thing I fail to comprehend here....... Gerhardus du Plessis used the police to achieve his own agenda - The fire arm licenses did not expire.. there were deferred because of the problematic FCA and the pending Agriforum High Court case. Du Plessis should have followed procedure and applied for an eviction order to have the French couple removed from his farm.
I wish the truth comes back to haunt him!!