“I don’t know what I would do with him if I met this guy,” said an emotional Peter van Rooyen.
He is the brother of Elroy van Rooyen, the 10-year-old boy who was murdered by Norman Simmons, a.k.a. the Station Strangler, in the 1990s.
Van Rooyen reacted to the news that Simmons would soon be released on parole after spending 28 years behind bars.
Between 1986 and 1994, 22 boys were found dead on Cape Flats after being raped and strangled. Simmons, who is widely blamed for the killings, has been described by the media as “aStrangler station“.
However, the evidence at the time could only link him to the death of Elroy van Rooyen. Simmons was a teacher at the time.
According to family members, Elroy was lured onto the train by Simmons, who promised to pay him 10 rand if he helped carry his books.
The boy’s body was found in the back of a cemetery in the Strand area, opposite the home of the mother of South African Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen.
My amazing brother
Peter van Rooyen, who lives in The Strand near Somerset West, said he was not involved in the restorative justice programme.
The program aims to engage the parties to the conflict and others affected by the harm (victims, perpetrators, concerned families and community members) in collectively identifying harms, needs and liabilities through accepting responsibilities, responding, promoting reconciliation and taking measures to prevent recurrence of the incident.
He said, “Talk to my grandmother.” “I don’t want anything to do with this guy. I’m still living with everything he did to my brother. His day will come.”
The distraught 45-year-old father threatened to stalk Simmons after he was released on parole.
“I miss my brother so much,” he said crying.
“I have so many memories of him and we had so many pictures together, but they were destroyed when my grandmother’s house caught fire.”
In just a week, Simmons could be released on parole, according to her Media reports. Candice Van Reenen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrective Services, declined to comment on the pending release.
“We are interacting with the victims and the community, and therefore will not be making any comment at this point,” Van Reenen said.
Ellroy’s grandmother, 82-year-old Louise, who attended Simmons’ trial in 1996, said she had no opinion on parole for her grandson’s killer.
She said, “What can I say.”
“they [the parole board] I think he has to get out, and I can’t stand in their way. Do I want the man to die in prison? I don’t know.”
She said she still remembers that before Simons was arrested, she saw him walking the streets.
“When it was on the news, I remembered seeing this guy, but I didn’t know it was him. He was well dressed.
“The parole board came here a few times and told us what was going on, and I don’t know what to say.”
Ralton Manuel, 38, of Chris Nessen Park in the Strand, was among the last to see Elroy alive. The two boys took the train from Strand station, but it did not go with Simmons.
“Fifi—that was what we called Elroy. I haven’t been able to finish school because, since Fifi’s death, I haven’t been well at all. I’ve been promised counseling but nothing has been offered to me.”
He said he only took counseling two years ago, after which his nightmares of being stalked by an unknown person ended.
How do I feel about his exit?
“Maybe now is the time to go to jail,” Manuel said, indicating that he may seek revenge on Simmons, “not for what he did to Fifi, but for the many other parents who are still seeking answers about what happened to their children.”
Human Rights Commissioner Nessen said that while Simmons’ imminent release was shocking to some families and communities, he was biding his time. And like any other prisoner, he had certain rights.
“I’m in a tough spot, but there is a criminal justice system that allows for parole. I don’t think the parole board would grant him parole if they didn’t think he was rehabilitated.”
He said the community should campaign for memorials for the other 21 boys who were killed.
“There is not a single memorial to any of the boys…
“If Elroy’s brother says he will never forgive an offender, he has the right to say so, but he should have participated in the restorative justice program.”
Thirty-three kilometers from the Strand, in Beacon Valley, Mitchells Plain, the family of Donovan Schwartz, one of the boys murdered between 1986 and 1994, is still searching for answers.
Chantelle said her brother was one of Simmons’ students when he disappeared.
“All I have is a picture of him,” she said. “Life is hard for me, and I always wonder what my life would have been like if he had been around.”
William Dix, 72, also of Beacon Valley, said he and Simmons worked for two days at a Sea Point grocery store before becoming a teacher.
“I interviewed him for the position,” he said, “and he was well dressed and a decent gentleman.”
After news of a serial killer was on the loose, Dix said, Simmons began living in the bush. He said that some members of the community assaulted innocent people who matched the description given by the police at the time.
“We didn’t suspect he was a Strangler.” DM