The heartbroken mother of Angelique Cilliers believes an attack in which her daughter, then 16, was raped, beaten and left for dead might have led her to a life of drug addiction and, ultimately, to face trial for murder.
Cilliers, 24, was found hanged in a Pollsmoor Prison cell last week, days before she was to appear in court in connection with the murder of pianist Elfriede Weich in Strand. Weich was 65.
Cilliers also faced a charge of car theft. She had allegedly been found with the bakkie of her friend, Winston Ferreira, 49, who had been found dead in his Table View flat days before Weich’s body was discovered.
Cilliers’s mother, Bernadine, who asked that only her first name be used, spoke lovingly about her “sweet child” and wept as she looked through her daughter’s possessions.
In a box of photographs and letters, she found a birthday card Weich had sent to Cilliers.
“I don’t believe she murdered Elfriede. They were friends. They understood each other. Angelique always used to help Elfriede feed her birds and fix her DVD machine.”
Also, her daughter was too slightly built to overpower anyone, Bernadine said.
She was not the “monster” others had made her out to be.
“She was a beautiful child. She used to sing to anyone who would listen. She wanted to be a singer or a model.”
Bernadine said she believed it was the events of one afternoon, when her daughter was in Grade 10, that changed the young girl’s life.
Her daughter would go to the Bellville library after school every day to do her homework. Later in the afternoon, she and her mother would travel home together.
“This one day, she just didn’t come home,” Bernadine said.
Hours of phone calls and searches followed until a security guard told the family he had found Cilliers lying near the railway tracks at the Bellville station.
Cilliers was taken to hospital and was found to have been beaten, raped and possibly drugged by three men.
“Nothing ever happened with that case. The investigating officer told me the docket had been lost. That was the beginning of the end.”
Bernadine believes the rape may have led her daughter to begin using heroin. Soon, Cilliers began spending time with “the wrong friends”, and she changed from being a sweet, loving girl to one so desperate for her next fix she would steal from her family home.
She recalled a day when Cilliers disappeared early in the morning.
Bernadine hurried to the Bellville spot where she knew Cilliers bought heroin and caught her daughter and a dealer in mid-transaction. Bernadine grabbed the money and drugs from her daughter and shouted at the dealer: “You are killing my child.”
Cilliers was 19 and in rehab when she gave birth to a girl. By then she and her boyfriend had broken up. The child, now five, was adopted by a woman in the United States.
Although Cilliers was linked to Ferreira, no crime was suspected in his death.
Bernadine said the pair had used drugs together, sometimes getting through R3 000 worth of heroin and crack in a night.
She said Cilliers’s addiction had intensified in the last month of her life.
“The last month Angelique didn’t sleep. She was up and down and in and out. The light was burning all night. Then she’d get in the car and drive away, probably to get drugs.”
Cilliers had recently told her mother she had no future.
“The real Angelique we knew died a long time ago. She was never the same girl. I knew she would never stop the heroin. I sat her down and asked if she wanted to go to another rehab. She told me: ‘I know it’s not going to help me. There’s no use your spending the money’.”
Cilliers was arrested on January 19 when she was found in Weich’s flat. The pianist’s body was found in a suitcase beneath a bed. Police believe Cilliers tried to draw R2 000 from Weich’s bank account.
She phoned her mother the day before she was found dead. She sounded happy. “I couldn’t believe (it).”
*This article originally appeared in the Cape Times.