11 June 2010 Leave a comment
June 11 2010 – Ex-journalist Gareth Walters, 48 and wife Hannetjie Walters-Schoonhoven, 45, a South African couple running holiday cottages on the 600-resident ‘ Ile Aux Nattes” a 5km-big island 35km east of Madagascar, were found murdered – slashed to death with pangas and then torched. They had worked there for 3 years.
It’s the first time in the island’s history that such a gruesome double-murder had ever occurred. Hannetjie Walters and her husband had created the kind of life most people can only dream of. The wooden house and spa they built there was less than 10 m from the sea and they had a breathtaking view of the crystal-clear Indian Ocean from their patio. ‘‘It’s paradise; we’re living a dream,’’ bubbly Hannetjie often said when she phoned her 3 brothers in South Africa.
In the end it wasn’t her birthday that lured Gerrit, Coenie and Henk Schoonhoven to their sister’s beloved island. Gerrit and Coenie had visited the island individually before but when all three set off together they didn’t know that it would be the last time they would say farewell to their energetic, creative sister and her artistic, intelligent husband.
During the night of Friday 11 June the couple were murdered and their bodies were put in a generator room and set alight. The spa was also burnt to the ground. Police are still investigating the brutal double-murder. ‘
Gareth and Hannetjie, who’d both been married twice before, had worked in the advertising industry and known each another for years. About four years ago they visited Ile au Nattes, fell in love with it and later sold up in Johannesburg and moved there.‘‘Hannetjie and Gareth lived their dream for three years. They were happier than a lifetime in Johannesburg could have made them,’’ Gerrit says.
Ockie Snyman, another south African running a guesthouse on the island, said the couple’s torched bodies were buried about 17 hours after the gruesome murders by some 700 island residents. He was visiting with friends about an hour’s walk away when he got a call between 22:00 and 23:00 that the Walter’s place was on fire. “I had to walk about an hour to get there – there are no roads on the island for cars.”When I arrived the fire had been put out and Gareth and Hannetjie were ‘charcoaled’ but one could see it was them’.From what he was told by islanders was that the couple were attacked by people with pangas when Gareth had gone outside to investigate some kind of noise. Their bodies then were dragged to the room containing the electricity generator and the room was torched.One employee claimed that he had earlier gone to the bank with Hannetjie to withdraw money for a tour being planned for Sunday.This money was apparently missing.
That night some 600 islanders showed up to guard the Walter couple’s bodies and the house because the island has no morgue.
`When the police investigated further on Saturday morning ´we discovered that Hannetjie was slashed across the face, in the head and on her back with a panga, said Snyman. `A chunk of her hair was missing and Gareth also had horrendous injuries to his head,´ said Snyman. The couple were buried Saturday at 4.00pm by all the islanders after Snyman had ´obtained formal permission from the SA embassy´. The Walters couple are the first foreigners to be buried on the island.
The Madagascar police force stationed at nearby Tamatave visited the island to talk to the residents and obtain more information and get their help in catching the culprits.`The tribal chief got everybody together. Hundreds of people got together trying to find out who the culprits were and to arrest them.“It was a great shock because nothing like this had ever happened on this island before. Our entire survival depends on tourism,´ said Snyman.
A friend, Manie Bosman, who visited the island several times from South Africa, said ´one can walk the entire circumference of the island in 2 and a half hours.´