Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marleen Konings: The Missing Dutch Girl

Anywhere in the World?

Ellen Berends
Ellen Berends

Since Marleen's fate had become known in January 2004, numerous people have stated that the crime could have happened anywhere. Ellen Berends, the Dutch Consular-General in Cape Town, referred to it as an "isolated incident", according to Independent On-Line of January 18, 2004. Bas Olbe Hampsenk, the head of the Art and Technology Department of Marleen's school in Holland, visited with her parents and the other twenty-odd students in South Africa soon after Marleen was found. According to him, in Die Burger of January 24, 2004, "it could happen any place in the world." The same sentiment was shared by many students who continued to come to South Africa from Dutch colleges and universities.

Even Marleen's parents held no ill feelings towards the country where their daughter had died.  Her father told the press, in Die Burger of December 11, 2004, that "we receive so many messages from people who say how ashamed they are about what happened, but it's not necessary to feel ashamed. It's not South Africa's fault."

No, it's not South Africa's fault. And yes, Marleen could've been murdered in any country in the world. But it's a sad fact that her chances to meet a violent end were much higher in South Africa. We have had one of the top rape rates in the world for more than a decade. I remember studying some statistics in Criminology back in 1997, and for the year in question—1994, I think—we were "bested" only by Rwanda ... which was involved in a civil war at the time. And we don't stand back for many when it comes to murder, either. In 2003-2004, Marleen was one of 2,839 people we know of who were murdered in the Western Cape, which translates into almost 8 every day in a small province in what is a small country. The previous year it was 10 per day, according to official police statistics reported in Die Burger of September 21, 2004. Writing this makes me very sad, especially since most violent crimes are committed against women.

Mzwandile Petros
Mzwandile Petros

Linza de Jager, in Die Burger of January 23, 2004, put this very well: "Africa is not for free range women."

Marleen Elise Konings died on December 29, 2003. She came to South Africa to complete her studies and to make a movie about Aids. She was "a real, true friend," Winneke Lobeek said in the Cape Times of January 9, 2004. Her father gave a short description of Marleen in the Cape Times of December 7, 2004:

"She was loving, spontaneous, joyful, honest and outgoing. She was a beautiful girl, very popular and full of life."

Note: Dollar equivalencies calculated at $1 = R6.10. This doesn't yield a monetary value that is directly comparable, however.


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