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Minister’s family, community reeling after alleged murder-suicide

The family of pastor Francois van Heerden of the Dutch Reformed Church in Stilfontein, North West, is left devastated after allegations that Van Heerden on Sunday shot first his eldest son, Rupert (31), and then himself.

This according to Nicolize van der Walt, a spokesperson for the family. Nicolize told YOU that Francois’ wife of more than 40 years, Herzola, was in her bedroom when she heard shots. “She acted immediately and, with the help of neighbours, called emergency services and the police,” she says.

Both Francois and Rupert were declared dead on the scene.

“The family is grief-stricken and of course there are many questions but they’re finding strength in their faith and wish to honour the memory of their loved ones,” Nicolize says.

In a statement the family requests that the public not jump to conclusions. “Please focus on the beautiful legacy of Ds Van Heerden . . . The family are trying to regain their senses.”

Francois is survived by his wife, Herzola, youngest son, Carl, and Rupert’s 20-month-old little boy, Rijn. “Rijn was the apple of his grandfather’s eye. Apart from Rijn, Ds Francois’ biggest joy was playing squash and spending time with his family,” Nicolize says.

“Rupert worked in Johannesburg and spent weekends at his parents’ home. He loved nature, gardening, action sport, and he was jovial, loved people and had a big heart,” the statement reads.

Friends and members of the congregation are reeling from the shock of the news.

Liezel Daniell grew up in Stilfontein. “My brain is refusing to believe he’d do something like that. He was peace personified. So soft and beloved by many. He was our minister when I was growing up and later officiated my wedding,” she told YOU.

Ans Kotze knows the family well. “I was a member of the congregation for more than 30 years before I moved away. Francois was the noblest man I knew,” she says, sobbing. She says she babysat little “Rupie” when he was a child. “The most beautiful child. I haven’t seen the family in a long time.”

Irene Vosloo Blom has known the family for nearly 30 years. “Francois was indeed a rock to his family, circle of friends and to the whole community. We loved Rupert as our own,” she says.

Dr Andries Kritzinger has been friends with Francois for 44 years and describes him as “an excellent man, a man with integrity . . . a giant”.

Col. Adéle Myburgh, police spokesperson, says it’s believed that Francois had shot his son and then turned the gun on himself but the motive for the deed isn’t known.

A memorial service for both Francois and Rupert will be held on Saturday at 11am in the NG Church Central in Stilfontein.

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