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Family still reeling after loved one gunned down in front of her home

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The family and friends of slain Mathebe Veronica Assegaai, 38, continue to struggle with the reality of her passing. They have distanced themselves from the controversy surrounding her death.

The late Mathebe Veronica Assegaai. Picture: Supplied

THE FAMILY and friends of slain Mathebe Veronica Assegaai, 38, continue to struggle with the reality of her passing. They have distanced themselves from the controversy surrounding her death.

Assegaai was gunned down in front of her home in John Daka, Galeshewe, by an unknown suspect during the early hours of Saturday morning.

According to police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sergio Kock, the incident unfolded at around 2am as Assegaai was preparing to leave for work at Keipoletse Funeral Services.

Kock said she was shot in the head by an unknown assailant wearing a balaclava. The suspect fled the scene immediately after the shooting.

“The female victim was discovered with a wound to the back of her head and died on the scene,” said Kock.

Witnesses reported that Assegaai’s colleagues were sitting inside the company vehicle, waiting for her to join them when the incident occurred.

Kock said that no arrests have been made yet and the police investigation remains ongoing.

Assegaai was a mother to two children, aged four and 12, and had been married to a police officer for seven years, but was currently going through a divorce. At the time of her death, she was residing with her two children. Earlier this year, she had reportedly filed for the divorce.

The manager of Keipoletse Funeral Services, Masoso Ramapulane, clarified previous media statements from the police. Contrary to the initial statements, Ramapulane said that Assegaai was not waiting for transport outside her home; rather, the transport was waiting for her at the front gate.

“We regard the safety of our staff as a priority. None of our workers wait for the transport outside the house, especially during the early hours of the morning. It was dark, so it would also be inconsiderate of the driver to expect anyone to stand outside in the dark,” said Ramapulane.

“The driver stopped in front of the gate, hooted, and Assegaai walked out of the house. That is when tragedy struck, in the presence of other staff members.”

Ramapulane added that they have arranged counselling for the workers as the experience has left them traumatised and fearing for their lives.

Assegaai’s colleagues said they last saw her on the evening before the incident (Friday) at work.

They preferred not to comment on whether her life was being threatened.

Witnesses said Assegaai was busy unlocking the gate when the gunman appeared from nowhere and fired the shot.

One witness recounted, “She started to unlock the gate. I was waiting to hear her open the car door and enter the taxi when I heard a loud bang.”

According to another witness, immediately after the gunshot, someone in the car screamed, “They’ve shot Mathebe!”

The witness added that the gunman seemed to have been standing on something next door, suddenly appearing atop the fence.

“A shot was fired to her head at close range from the top of the fence. We saw the sparks and heard the loud bang as if someone was breaking a bottle, then Mathebe fell to the ground. One of us wanted to get out of the vehicle to go and help but was stopped from doing so as it was not deemed safe.

“We then rushed to the police station to fetch the cops to escort us to the scene. The police sent us back to the scene and promised that 10111 would send a team.

“On our way to the police station, we had already called our management and reported the incident.

“Upon our return from the police station, we found that the police had not yet arrived. It was only one of our female colleagues at the scene, who had just gotten out of the car and was trying to assist Mathebe, who was lying on the ground.”

Upon arriving at the scene, the colleague said she had found Assegaai lying unattended on the ground. She stepped out of the car to assess the situation. The absence of anyone else at the scene, including the neighbours, struck her as strange.

“Her eyes were open, but I could not feel her pulse. I covered her to prevent her from getting cold. The ambulance was the first to arrive at the scene, but the paramedics were afraid of getting out as they feared for their lives. It seems like the ambulance was called by some of our colleagues who were not on the scene.”

She said her co-workers started arriving at the scene and one of them went to the ambulance and reassured the paramedic that she would be safe.

Assegaai has meanwhile been lauded as a “sweet person” who was “beautiful inside and out”.

Assegaai’s mother-in-law, Maria, considered herself the closest person to the deceased – a confidante who knew her well. She expressed that ever since Assegaai married her son, she had gained a daughter. Maria emphasised that they would allow the law to take its course to ensure the arrest of her daughter’s killer.

“All we want for now, is for both families to bury our daughter with dignity. None of the family members know exactly what happened as we were not present. We have also agreed to distance ourselves from the controversy surrounding her death,” said Maria.

“We are aware that a lot is being said around the traumatic incident, but we cannot say much as we were not there.”

Maria said that on the fateful morning, she received a call from Assegaai’s colleague, who asked her to rush to the scene because “something bad had happened”.

“Upon our arrival, we found many people in front of the house, with Assegaai lying on the ground. The paramedics were busy attending to her. The paramedics assured us that she still had a pulse.

“Everyone was crying and some were praying out loud. It was chaotic.

“I managed to squeeze through the crowd of people and the police as I wanted to have a closer look and to see where I could help. I was shattered when the female paramedic suddenly looked up and said, ‘I’m sorry, we did all that we could’.

“That is when the police cordoned the scene off and moved everyone back.”

Maria said that she and Assegaai had shared a deep bond.

“We were very close and were always there for each other. I was always the first person she would come to with her problems … She had a special place in my heart because she married to my son at a young age. I took her under my arm because I understood what it felt like to marry at a young age.

“I have lost a beautiful child … I am shattered and don’t know what to do. She brought light into my home.”

Assegaai’s biological family also expressed that none of them know what happened.

“We heard from a witness about what happened, but cannot say make any speculation as we are not the law,” said one of Assegaai’s aunts.

“At this moment, we are here in one spirit, with the goal of giving our child a decent send-off for the benefit of the children.”

Assegaai’s aunt observed that she had found a sense of family among her in-laws. She pointed out that Assegaai’s mother had passed away when she was still young.

According to friends of Assegaai, she was a private yet friendly person, who was very brave as well.

Assegaai will be buried on Sunday.

The late Mathebe Veronica Assegaai. Pictures: Supplied

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