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‘Now we can start with healing,’ says father of mur...

South Africa

TWO LIFE TERMS

‘Now we can start with healing,’ says father of murdered Jesse Hess

David van Boven and Tasliem Ambrose during sentencing at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on 19 July 2022. Van Boven was convicted for the murders of university student Jesse Hess (18) and her 85-year-old grandfather Chris Lategan in their Parow apartment in 2019. (Photo by Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Almost three years after Jesse Hess and her grandfather, Chris Lategan, were murdered, Hess’s cousin was sentenced to two life terms for the murders.

‘I don’t know what to feel at the moment… I’m tired, I’m upset, but I’m just glad that it’s over. Now, we need to start with our healing process,” said Lance Hess, whose 19-year-old daughter Jesse Hess was murdered by her cousin, David van Boven, in August 2019.

jesse hess selfie
A selfie of Jesse Hess taken at the beach in Cape Town. (Photo: Jesse Hess)
jessie hess father lance
Lance Hess, the father of Jesse Hess, speaks to the media at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on 19 July 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Hess spoke to Daily Maverick on Wednesday, a day after Van Boven was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment for murder, 40 years on two counts of robbery, eight years for sexual assault and three years for fraud. The sentences are to run concurrently.

A second accused, Tasliem Ambrose, made a plea deal and said he was at the crime scene, but blamed Van Boven for the murders. Ambrose was acquitted of murder, sexual assault, fraud and theft. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment on two counts of robbery.

During the trial, State advocate Emily van Wyk told the court that the murders had been orchestrated by Van Boven. 

Lance Hess, who attended the trial in the Western Cape High Court, said: “It wasn’t the easiest thing to sit in court and listen to what happened, but I felt that I needed to be there to hear why they did what they did.”

When Jesse and her grandfather, Chris Lategan, were murdered in their Parow flat three years ago, Van Boven and Ambrose were drug addicts.

“From what I understand, what happened was drug-related, but they could’ve just taken the stuff… but now they’ve killed two people. It’s so wrong,” said Hess. 

Hess said Jesse’s death had taken an enormous toll on him. 

“I have been sick on and off. The doctor said it was stress-related. I’ve even had a breakdown that affected my marriage, but we’re working on our relationship.”

Jesse’s sister, Tristan, “has her days of crying, and that hurts me more because I can’t help her cope, because I also can’t cope”, said Hess.

He said they had attended a few therapy sessions when the case started, “which helped a little, but it’s an expensive thing to do”. Hess says he plans on continuing with therapy. 

Van Boven ‘a deeply disturbed individual’

In sentencing on Tuesday,  Western Cape High Court Judge Judith Cloete said Van Boven had shown no remorse. 

“He believes he is entitled to do as he pleases and to take whatever he wants, irrespective of the consequences to others. To my mind, this makes him a deeply disturbed individual. But it goes further than that… he is also an extremely dangerous one. 

jesse hess van boven
David van Boven (left) and Tasliem Ambrose during sentencing at the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on 19 July 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

“The impression he has left this court is that he has no respect whatsoever for the rights to life, dignity and safety of persons and their property.”

The lives of Hess and Lategan came to a brutal end when Van Boven visited their home on 30 August 2019. 

News24 reported that Ambrose said Van Boven had told him he was going to collect money from a family member. When they arrived, Lategan had opened the door for them.

Ambrose said he witnessed Van Boven assault the 85-year-old man. Lategan was later found dead on the bathroom floor. He had been gagged.

When 19-year-old Jesse Hess came out of one of the rooms, she was also attacked. Hess’ lifeless body was found on the bed. She had been tied up and gagged.

Ambrose said he tried to leave the house after Lategan had been assaulted, but couldn’t because the door was locked. Ambrose claimed that he feared for his life as he knew “what David was capable of”.

Ambrose said that after the victims had been tied up, Van Boven instructed him to remove the valuables from the flat, which Van Boven later sold.

Cellphones, two TVs, rings and a laptop were stolen from the house. The court heard that cellphone records linked Lategan’s phone with Ambrose, who had used the device to call his father. The call wasn’t answered.

Van Boven has previous convictions for aggravated robbery and rape, for which he was released on parole in December 2018. Van Boven is also appearing on another rape charge in the Wynberg Regional Court.

Ambrose has a string of previous and pending drug-related cases and a conviction for illegal firearm possession. DM

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