Cult couple: it was suicide

IOL News, South Africa/February 7, 2011

French couple Philippe Ménière and Agnès Jardel committed suicide and were not shot by police.

After weeks of speculation and police being tight-lipped about how the fugitive couple died, it was revealed to the Cape Times that Ménière, 60, and Jardel, 55, killed themselves when they were cornered in a vacant farmhouse outside Sutherland, surrounded by heavily armed police officers.

Major-General Liziwe Ntshinga, the Northern Cape's deputy provincial commissioner for priority crime investigation, told the Cape Times: "They committed suicide. When police approached, they shot themselves."

Ntshinga said she did not yet know if one or both of them had done the shooting, as the police report still had to be completed. The shooting took place on January 20.

The suicide may explain why police thought at the time that the couple might have "booby-trapped" themselves, and did not move the bodies until explosives experts had been to the scene.

Police found several guns and a supply of ammunition with the bodies.

The couple, who were wanted for murdering police officer Jacob Boleme outside their farmhouse near Sutherland last month, were on the run in the veld around Sutherland for six days, evading more than 70 police officers, expert trackers and dogs in one of the biggest manhunts the province has seen. They were finally tracked down after a member of the public spotted movement in a vacant farmhouse only 400m from the house where they had lived.

The couple were buried in Kimberley last week.

French consul Antoine Michon told the Cape Times: "We appointed a funeral company at the request of the family and friends of the couple, who will pay for it." He would not give further details.

Michon said reports that the couple would be given "a pauper's burial" were not true. They had a "simple but proper burial" organised by the French consulate with the agreement of the couple's family and friends in France. The family said that as they had spent most of their lives in South Africa, they wanted them buried here.

In the absence of relatives here, Michon had identified the couple's bodies in the Kimberley morgue from passport photographs and descriptions. He said Jardel had a half-brother and two sisters in France. Ménière had no living relatives, but had friends in France.

Michon said Jardel's siblings had lost contact with her, and were shocked when they heard that she had been involved in the shooting of a police officer.

"For them it was very hard. They had learnt about the murder of the policeman from the news," Michon said.

The family had told him they wanted to write to Sarah Boleme, the mother of the murdered officer.

On Friday, Boleme said she had unanswered questions about events on the day her son was shot.

"There are two versions of the story. The (police) general is waiting for the investigation to be finished, before I will know what happened."

The press was told that Gerhardus du Plessis, who owned the farm where the couple lived for 12 years, wanted them to leave as the family wanted to use the farmhouse. Du Plessis apparently asked them to move out in July, but they had not done so by December.

Du Plessis knew the couple possessed firearms for which licenses had expired. He lodged a complaint with Sutherland police. On January 14 Du Plessis's sons Jaen and Cobus went with four police officers to the couple's house with a search warrant.

Ménière handed over the weapons, then pulled out a handgun and shot Boleme. As the others fled, he shot and wounded police officer Glenwall du Toit. Jardel was firing from the house. The couple got into Du Plessis's bakkie and pursued the fleeing men, shooting at them.

When the bakkie got stuck, the couple fled into the veld. - Cape Times.

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