My name is Barbara Volkwyn and I am the youngest sister of the late Michael Volkwyn who was murdered on the 13th of May 2015 in his home in Hazendal, the home of our birth.
Though Michael was 7 years older than me, we had a special bond. We experienced a great deal of hardship in our lives and fought many battles together but we also suffered from varying degrees of depression. I was diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) as a young woman who first experienced depression in my teens. Unlike bipolar depression which is at times characterized by highs – sometimes called manic episodes and then lows, I am unipolar – I only have lows. To make matters worse, I have an almost rare, drug-resistant form of MDD so treatment usually consists of several types of medication and at very high doses.
Michael, like many other highly intelligent geniuses, was an extremely complex person and had a drinking problem. He’d tried various types of treatment but was addicted to alcohol up until November 2000. I’m very careful when it comes to giving people labels. I’m not a psychiatrist and although I’ve seen them from a teenager, it’s a complex field of medicine.
To the best of my knowledge Michael had one serious girlfriend in his thirties and her name was Charmaine. She committed suicide a few years after they met. Her untimely death tore Michael apart and perhaps worsened his drinking problem and associated problems. Our upbringing was strict and we had reserved and conservative parents so life was not always easy. We led pretty much sheltered lives. In a manner of speaking our family was and remains dysfunctional. As Judge Desai once put it in Chambers, never in his legal career had he come across divisions in a family like this one. As many attorneys and Judges said, cut your losses and go your separate ways. The situation is beyond reconciliation.
Moving on, seeing Michael battle with his emotional problems and his drinking problem I felt compelled to help him. At times I did that by sharing my medication with him. By doing that, knowing he had a drinking problem, even though I cautioned him against using my medication with alcohol, it was unwise, foolish and reckless. The end result, though many people have tried to console me by saying my intentions were good, it brought tragedy on several occasions. At those times I would take back my meds and say never again, but invariably as his mood slumped, I’d share my meds again. If you know anything about depression, you’d know that the brain usually gets used to the medication and after about 6 months, the effect starts to wear off. I guess circumstances also influence this. Once that happens and depression sets in (well it actually never goes away – the aim is to control it), pschyciatrists change doses and often use combinations of medications or change them altogether. As I changed meds, I’d share those with Michael as well, eventually to his detriment.
In 2000, I moved to Pretoria for a year. I was contracting as an Analyst Programmer on a year long assignment. I was worried who’d be there for Michael with me gone. When he was feeling down, he’d call and I’d suggest that he come and stay with me but he didn’t want to. We stayed in touch but his mood was deteriorating. He wouldn’t come to Pretoria and I could not return to Cape Town during that year so I did what I thought was the next best thing and send some more meds down to him. Michael continued to consume alcohol and I was aware of it. For a short while his mood improved but the relief was brief.
Unhappy in Pretoria and following a smash and grab I decided to job hunt and return to Cape Town. I was fortunate and found a new job fairly quickly. I resigned and my then employer wasn’t thrilled that I’d be working for the competition so I was asked not to return to work the next day. I would therefore not be working out my notice period. Added to that, as one can expect, they were not paying the relocation costs back to Cape Town. I didn’t have enough money to get my furniture back so I mulled over it and called Michael on the morning of the 16th November. I recall he was very annoyed, quite likely angry but said that he would deposit the money into my bank account immediately. For the first time when I hung up and with my hand over my mouth I said “I wish I had not made that call.” Michael was really upset.
I don’t think my older brother Roy called me until the next day to ask if I’d heard about Michael. I said I had not. He told me that during the previous afternoon Michael went outside and shot a couple of arrows at Barbara Gibb’s house. One arrow hit her car. Michael was arrested and taken to Mowbray Police cells. The reason being that he was previously brutalized at Athlone Police cells following behavioral problems of a serious nature following heavy drinking and a disagreement with one of his tenants. I will post those photos at the end of this document. When I heard that he’d been outside previously shouting some abusive language I felt responsible. Finally I became aware of the gravity of my actions.
I got back to Cape Town as quickly as I could and the next day went to visit Michael at Pollsmoor Prison. My eldest sister stated that should I return to his house, my father and she would not finance his legal representative. It was Michael’s decision that I look after his house. He was held at the maximum security section. The day before my late father came to see me and it was a very unpleasant visit. He said “You know this is all your fault. We found all your boxes of medication and read the side-effects.” What could I say? It was my fault but very quickly it developed into an argument and I asked my late father to leave.
During my first visit to Michael, he said my late father and sister had appointed William Booth as his attorney but it was clear that the family wanted him to dry out at Pollsmoor so he asked me to find another attorney. I did. I chose Mushtaq Parker. I explained to Mushtaq Parker very early on that this was all my fault. He asked why and I explained. For some reason he felt this should not be brought up. Perhaps he feared for my prosecution but I cannot say that with certainty. There were several attempts by my father and sister to oppose bail and they succeeded. Michael and I were devastated by this turn of events but he remained dignified. I continued to visit Michael who by then would not see anyone else. After two days of observation at Valkenberg Hospital, Michael was declared fit to stand trial. He was quietly granted bail which the state did not oppose. One of the conditions of his release was to attend a rehab centre for his drinking problem and this he did at De Novo. The charges against him were provisionally withdrawn in June 2001 as far as I’m aware. More about that later.
Michael did not touch another drop of alcohol up until the time he was killed. Needless to say I no longer shared my meds with him either. Yet, for some reason which stuns me, the media, the police and at times certain family members wanted Michael to be portrayed and remembered as a loner, a recluse with serious undiagnosed mental problems. I suffer from severe depression and am also a loner and recluse. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
As Roy states repeatedly, Michael was so normal, hell bent on staying out of trouble. Do you have any idea how many times people have thrown rocks and stones at his house (seen the wooden window in the lounge)? He has had petrol bombs thrown into his garden, shots fired into his house from outside, but he didn’t retaliate – that’s the extent he went to in order to stay out of trouble. Police driving past would torment him, revving their vans or putting their sirens on – while I was inside but he simply shook his head in despair. I don’t know how he took it. It would have driven me over the edge. No, many people didn’t like some of the banners in his garden but was that a reason to shoot at his house and throw petrol bombs?
In 2002 our father, Isaac Volkwyn died at Groote Schuur hospital as a result of euthanasia by omission. Michael formed a close bond with my late father and he took his death badly. I did too. It’s a crime in South Africa. I fought as Michael did many cases in the Cape High Court. We lost all our cases except one – we represented ourselves which is no easy task. Michael lost the most. Every time he made a move at court, he’d be summonsed back to Wynberg Court for the weapons case. That continued until 2010 – yes, that is ten years after he was charged. Eventually he was acquitted of all charges in 2010. He seemed to spend ten years reading law and representing himself as I did in the High Court. He lost financially. His belongings were removed by a Sheriff of the Court at the insistence of his sister’s lawyer, surrounded by policemen and policewomen. I was there while it happened and even I was threatened with arrest. Eventually he used all his savings to get his belongings back a day before the auction or so we were told. No advert in the papers but Martin Bey, his sister’s attorney screwed him for the costs of the advert/s. He just paid…dignified as always. His banners in the memorial garden in memory of his late father were his way of expressing himself. He was justifiably angry. For more details go to http://www.isaacvolkwyn.com.
He was screwed left, right and centre until even he felt that I was no longer fighting the battle with him. At least now, where he is flying with angels, he knows the truth. I never betrayed him – not once. Sadly, he never got over the death of my late dad. It’s evident in documents I’ve seen on his PCs. Michael was devastated and remained that way until he was killed. Not only the loss of my father but his financial loss, the way he was dragged to court for 10 years for the weapons case until finally he was acquitted without the help of a lawyer. What breaks me is the fact that all he had was 5 years without the trauma of court cases before he was killed. Five years after a life of hell.
I had not seen Michael for 4 years prior to his death. For some reason which I will not divulge he believed I had betrayed him in court. At least now, where he is flying with angels and his dogs that were put down, he knows I never betrayed him. He was very kind to me and so I missed that. I always wondered how he was. I was happy to hear from Roy that he had 18 dogs! On the night prior to his death I learnt that he had 13 dogs and a couple of them had been naughty. He loved them to bits, each and every one of them and they adored him.
How he fed 13 dogs boggles my mind but he did it lovingly everyday. He took them to the vet and tried his level best to deal with the fleas at times even throwing flea powder on himself. I wish you could see all the kennels he made – different types. An ex-tenant described how the dogs were always all over him and as Roy found out, extremely protective. Once he got too close to Michael and one bit him. From the 100s of photographs he took of them I can assure you he loved them and treated them like his children (he never had any of his own). In fact the blankets I’ve been using since I’ve been staying at his home were all the dogs’ blankets. They were fed from his own plates and he often nursed the newborns when their mothers could not. I’m an animal lover and I thought I was a great mom to the late Gucci – my Maltese poodle who at ten had to be put down due to congestive heart failure and cancer. I know many animal lovers but none quite like Michael. I’m glad that he experienced the love protection and loyalty from those dogs. I now know he would not have been prepared to give them up. Just as they fought to protect him, he did likewise. He was not going to let them go – he was their dad – the best dad they ever knew.
When I was told that Michael was working for the military and or the government, I could not believe it. I refused to believe it. Information was leaked to the media. After some investigation Michael was in fact working for the military. Top secret work and I will leave it at that. Nowhere in any of his notebooks or files on his PCs did he go public with that – he was a man of his word. I won’t change that.
Obviously when his video footage was deleted from his computers – files as well and most of the work he did, I suspected he was killed for one of 3 reasons. It had nothing to do with the dogs, that was a smokescreen. Either he wanted out or he missed a deadline or he needed more money. Now that I have recovered his files it appears that either he wanted out and or he needed more money. He had spent vast amounts of money on materials in the 3 months leading up to his death – more than he’d spent before. He worked practically day and night. Look at how he aged in four years. Good God, he wasn’t superhuman.
The extent to which his murder has been covered up – the actual killing part to be blunt, has been shocking. Word on the street is I’m now being monitored closely and should be very careful. Or what? They want to kill me as well? I’m not going to take this lying down. Steps are now being taken against the forces that killed Michael and his dog. SAPS bullets were discharged on the night of 12/5/2015 but were not logged at the Police Station. SAPS is handling that or so I have been led to believe. I will not rest until justice is served. Of that you can be sure. I shredded all his notes, finished and unfinished work.
I hope the media and SAPS will now refrain from badmouthing Michael. Think twice before you put pen to paper or make uninformed statements. You now know the truth. It’s something I wanted everyone to know about 15 years ago and even before that, yet each time I was prevented from doing so. When a reporter came to take statements from the family, again I was prevented from clearing his name.
Justice for #MichaelVolkwyn. I will fight to the bitter end. If I have to go it alone in court as before then I will do so.
I hold fond memories of his kindness towards me; of the battles we fought. I will always love and miss him and the good times we spent together. His kindness and the love he shared with his dogs and theirs with him will forever be remembered. I am so proud of Michael. His image should no longer be tarnished. I’m hoping and praying that at last his name will be cleared. It should not have taken me this long.