By ZELDA VENTER, iOL, 09/11/2017
Pretoria – The woman who killed her two sons did not suffer from any mental defect at the time of the incident. Rehithile Katlego Matjane, 34, acted rationally throughout the day up to a few minutes before pulling the trigger when she said she could not remember anything.
This is according to a psychiatrist at Weskoppies and part of the forensic team who assessed her in 2015 shortly after her arrest.
A magistrate referred her for a 30-day evaluation to ascertain her mental status at the time she killed her children.
Dr Jacobeth Pooe, who was a member of the panel of three psychiatrists who assessed Matjane, on Wednesday took the stand in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to shed more light on why the panel found that Matjane could be held criminally responsible for her actions.
The mother is accused of killing the two boys in April 2015, after fetching them from school and driving from Pretoria east to a remote spot in Hammanskraal, where she shot them at point-blank range.
The mother’s defence is that while she did not deny pulling the trigger, she could not remember anything about the actual killings.
Psychiatrist Dr Ivanov Savov this week testified on her behalf and said she could not be held responsible for her actions due to the side-effects of the medication she had taken for a few days leading to the incident and on the day of the killings.
He diagnosed her as suffering from sane automatism.
But Pooe said from her assessment there was nothing to make her believe the woman had suffered from a mental defect which resulted in her killing Alvero, 2, and Keyondre, 6, on April 17, 2015.
The expert said that on that day Matjane acted normally; she fetched her children from school, strapped them into the car and drove normally until she found a remote spot.
The next thing she claimed she remembered was “waking-up” and finding her sons dead, one in a pool of blood outside and the other in the front seat of the car.
Matjane told Pooe that she had felt suicidal earlier in the day and fetched her husband’s firearm from the safe. She went to the garage to shoot herself, but decided against it. Instead of taking it back to the safe, she placed it in the boot of her car.
Pooe said if she did not want to use the gun, one would expect her to put it back in the safe. “It seems to me this was planned,” she said.
Matjane also told her that she had been feeling depressed for two days before the incident. This increased on the day when she returned from taking the children to school and her husband, psychiatrist Dr Maxwell Matjane, was not home for breakfast with her as usual.
She phoned him and he said he was at a building supply shop. Matjane also said she had a disagreement with her husband about the bathroom of the new house they were building.
“He told her ‘I will build you this house but leave you with the children’ She did not like what he said, as she interpreted that as meaning he would leave her. She told me that he did not mean what he said and that she had a friend in her husband.”
Pooe also referred to the fact that after the killings Matjane went to a nearby house to get help, where she asked a woman she found there to phone her mother and her husband. She even supplied their numbers.
She testified that Matjane told her she took medication on the days leading to the incident as well as on the day.
According to her, the last medication she took was at 7am that day.
Pooe said that after she had shot the children she took all the medication in her possession at that time.
Her advocate Piet Pistorius told Judge Hans Fabricius that his client was concerned that he (the judge) did not treat the defence as fairly as he did the prosecution. He accused the judge of “snapping” at the defence from time to time.
The judge asked the prosecutor whether it was her impression that he was “rude to her colleague”.
Prosecutor Elbie Lennard denied this. Pistorius said “the record will speak for itself” and the judge responded “I agree it will speak for itself.”
The case is proceeding.
Murder accused mom blames side effects of medicine
Pretoria – The 6-year-old boy tried to fend off his mother’s bullets with his arms after she had shot his 2-year-old brother in the front seat of her car. He was later found lying outside the car in a pool of blood, dead.
Police found the younger boy with his head slumped forward, and pathologists told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that little Alvero Matjane had suffered a single bullet wound to the side of his head.
The elder boy Keyondre was shot in the forehead and again in the lower right arm as he tried to protect himself from the hail of bullets fired by his mother. Both children were shot from the front, which meant their mother had to face them when she pulled the trigger.
But 34-year-old Rehithile Katlego Matjane said she had no recollection of shooting her two children.
While she did not deny pulling the trigger on the afternoon of April 17, 2015, she only had “snapshot memories” of what happened.
She blamed this on the side effects of a host of pain killers and the other medication she had taken prior to the incident for menstrual pains and headaches.
Matjane, the wife of well-known city psychologist Dr Maxwell Matjane, pleaded not guilty to the double murder. The couple had another child earlier this year.
On Monday, psychologist Dr Ivanov Savov testified on her behalf and said she could not be held responsible for her actions.
Savov said what she had done could be blamed on the side effects of the medication she had taken for a few days leading up to the incident.
He testified it was clear the mother had no prior intention of shooting her children and that she only decided to shoot them a second or two before she actually pulled the trigger.
According to him, Matjane had acted in a state of sane automatism – a reaction to the medication she took, coupled with a glass of wine she had during lunch that day.
Savov described Matjane as a normal, loving mother prior to the incident, who had a happy and “almost perfect” marriage. Her husband continued to stand by her through the trial.
Her advocate, Piet Pistorius. told the court that his client had started using a host of medication two days prior to the incident.
The reaction was due to the medication she took, coupled with the glass of wine during lunch that day, he said. The medicine included an array of pain killers, asthma inhaler, energy drink and sport supplements.
On the second day she started to feel “very sad and lonely”. She also developed suicidal thoughts, although she did not know why, he explained.
Her next snapshot memory was waking up the following day in a police cell. “She did not even know she had been detained. She immediately asked where her children were,” Pistorius said.
The mother said she had no idea how she drove from the family’s Pretoria East home to a remote spot in Hammanskraal. Her last recollection was strapping herself and her children into her luxury car.
Police Captain Evan Mokgapa recalled how she had been called to a plot in Hammanskraal by a member of the community.
Matjane was 4.5km from the scene where she had shot her children at the time. “When I got there this lady ran to me and hugged me. She said ‘I killed my children. Please kill me too. I want to rest with my children’,” she told the court earlier this year.
Mokgapa, with the accused in the back seat of the police van, drove to the spot where the children were found.
The firearm used to shoot the children was found on the front seat of the car, next to the body of Alvero.
“I asked her why she had killed her children and she said ‘I have struggled for 12 years in my marriage’. I gathered that she had domestic issues,” the police officer said.
Mokgapa said while Matjane was crying, she spoke in a normal and coherent manner. “My impression was that she knew what she had done.”
Matjane’s husband later arrived on the scene and calmly spoke to his wife.
He also fetched the blood-stained car the following day to have it washed.
Matjane, in her explanation of plea, said she and her husband had a good relationship.
Savov said the mother had an idiosyncratic reaction to the medication, which resulted in a “psychotic depressive episode” and subsequent suicide tendencies. He said it was a once off, as she now realised the side effects of the medication.
In his assessment of the situation, of the state of the mother and her shooting and killing her two sons, Savov concluded that on that day she acted totally out of her character, as she was a loving mother and happy wife.
But the State said it would argue that she exaggerated the amount of medication she took and that she knew what she was doing when she shot her children.
The case is proceeding.