2008-10-11 : More cops turning guns on themselves

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2008-10-11 : More cops turning guns on themselves

Postby GOSA » Fri, 2008-10-24 11:56

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 227C146243

By Zara Nicholson

Their duty is to protect the lives of South Africans but many police officers end up turning their guns on their own families in what psychologists say is the result of built-up anger and not seeking help.

Former Claremont police station commissioner, Superintendent Marius van der Westhuizen, is on trial in the Cape High Court for the murder of his three children, Antoinette (21 months), Marius Eben, five, and Bianca, 16).

He is accused of shooting all three at point blank range before turning the gun on himself. He survived the shooting on July 28 2006.

He shot the children in front of his wife, police captain Charlotte van der Westhuizen.

rlier this week a police director, Petrus Roberts, testified about Van der Westhuizen's marital problems and the night of the shooting.

Roberts testified that he was aware of the couple's marital problems, including Van der Westhuizen's affair with a colleague, his dissatisfaction with his wife's working hours at the Kuils River police station and his "negative" relationship with his father-in-law.

Prosecutor Mornay Julius questioned Roberts about the SAPS Employee Assistance Programme where members were able to get counselling from psychologists among other services.

Roberts said if a police member refused to go for counselling at this programme, they could be referred to an independent person.

Judge Willem Louw asked Roberts whether there was a perception in the service that members who sought help thought it would affect their careers after it was known they were in counselling.

Roberts said: "The service is there and they can make use of it. There is that culture that if someone uses it, it can have an impact on their career but not a general perception. It does not get held against them by any official. The culture makes them think so."

Clinical psychologist Bryan Hellmann said the stigma was "unnecessary". "They are exposed to such traumatic things and it is inevitable that they should get help. This should in fact be seen as a strength that they are going for help".

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Billy Jones said the assistance programme was part of the human resources department and employed psychologists, social workers and spiritual services.

Jones said the aim of the programme was to enhance the "psycho-social and spiritual wellness" of police personnel and their families.

In court this week Van der Westhuizen sobbed while Roberts spoke about the night of the shooting. Roberts said Van der Westhuizen was a "good worker and policeman" and that he was "trustworthy".

His wife testified this week that he calmly looked her in the eye each time he shot one of their children.

Van der Westhuizen faces three charges of murder. He initially pleaded guilty but the State rejected claims in his plea explanation that he suffered from depression and could not remember what had happened as a result of post traumatic stress disorder. A plea of not guilty was therefore entered.

The trial continues on Tuesday.
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