Brother of Elroy van Rooyen, Norman Simons’ murder victim, distraught over killer’s imminent release
Between 1986 and 1994, 22 boys were found dead on the Cape Flats after being raped and strangled. Norman Simons, dubbed the Station Strangler, was convicted of one murder and suspected of having committed the others. He is about to be released on parole.
‘I do not know what I will do to him if I ever meet that guy,” said an emotional Peter van Rooyen.
He is the brother of Elroy van Rooyen, the 10-year-old boy killed by Norman Simons, dubbed the Station Strangler, in the 1990s.
Van Rooyen was reacting to the news that Simons was due to be released soon on parole after spending 28 years behind bars.
Between 1986 and 1994, 22 boys were found dead on the Cape Flats after being raped and strangled. Simons, widely blamed for the killings, was described in the media as the “Station Strangler”.
However, the evidence at the time could link him only to the death of Elroy van Rooyen. Simons was a schoolteacher at the time.
According to family members, Elroy was lured on to a train by Simons, who promised to pay him R10 if he helped carry his books.
The boy’s body was found at the back of a graveyard in the Strand area, opposite South African Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen’s mother’s house.
Peter van Rooyen, who lives in Strand near Somerset West, said he did not take part in the restorative justice programme.
The programme aims to involve the parties to a dispute and others affected by the harm (victims, offenders, families concerned and community members) in collectively identifying harms, needs and obligations through accepting responsibilities, making restitution, promoting reconciliation and taking measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident.
“They spoke with my grandmother,” he said. “I do not want anything to do with that man. I still live with everything he did to my brother. His day will come.”
The distraught 45-year-old father of two threatened to hunt down Simons after his release on parole.
“I miss my brother so much,” he said, weeping.
“I have a lot of memories of him and we had a lot of pictures together, but they were destroyed when my grandmother’s house caught fire.”
In just a week, Simons could be freed on parole, according to media reports. Candice van Reenen, spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, declined to comment on the pending release.
“We are interacting with the victims and community and will therefore not make any comment at this stage,” said Van Reenen.
Elroy’s 82-year-old grandmother, Louise, who attended Simons’ trial in 1996, said she had no opinion on the pending parole of her grandson’s killer.
“What can I say,” she said.
“They [the parole board] think he must come out, and I cannot stand in their way. Do I want the man to die in prison? I don’t know.”
She said she still recalls that before Simons was arrested, she saw him walking in the streets.
“When he appeared on the news, I remembered seeing this guy, but did not know it was him. He dressed nicely.
“The parole board came here many times and told us what was happening, and I don’t know what to say.”
Ralton Manuel, 38, from Chris Nissen Park in Strand, was among the last to see Elroy alive. The two boys boarded the train from Strand station, but he did not go with Simons.
“Fifi – that was what we called Elroy. I could not complete schooling because, ever since Fifi’s death, I was never okay. I was promised counselling but nothing was ever offered to me.”
He said he only received counselling two years ago after which nightmares of being chased by a faceless person ended.
“How do I feel about him coming out?
“Maybe now it is my time to go to jail,” said Manuel, suggesting he might seek retribution against Simons, “not because of what he did to Fifi, but to the many other parents who still seek answers about what happened to their children”.
Human Rights Commissioner Nissen said that while the imminent release of Simons was traumatic for some families and communities, he had served his time. And, like any other prisoner, he had certain rights.
“I am in a difficult situation, but there is a criminal justice system which allows parole to happen. I do not believe that the parole board would grant him parole if they did not believe he was rehabilitated.”
He said the community should fight for memorials for the other 21 boys who were murdered.
“There is not a single memorial for any of the boys…
“If Elroy’s brother is saying he will never forgive the offender, he has the right to say that, but he should have participated in the restorative justice programme.”
Thirty-three kilometres from Strand, in Beacon Valley, Mitchells Plain, the family of Donovan Swartz, one of the boys killed between 1986 and 1994, is still seeking answers.
Chantelle said her brother was one of Simons’ pupils when he disappeared.
“All I have is a photo of him,” she said. “Life is hard for me, and I always wonder how my life would have turned out if he was around.”
William Dicks, 72, also from Beacon Valley, said he worked with Simons for two days at a grocery shop in Sea Point before he became a teacher.
“I interviewed him for the post, and he was a well-dressed, decent man,” he said.
Dicks said that after news broke about a serial killer being on the loose, Simons began living in the bushes. He said some community members assaulted innocent people who matched the description provided by police at the time.
“We did not suspect that he was the Station Strangler.” DM