South Africa

Werner de Jager: ‘I called out Liezel’s name to warn her’ – neighbour

Werner de Jager 1

Initially, she didn’t suspect anything unusual when they moved in next to their pastor and her husband on Kanoneiland in the Northern Cape in 2016. There were a few people in the community who acted strangely towards Werner de Jager, but nothing worth noting.

Sabrina Burger told The Citizen she received counseling from Rev. Liezel de Jager to process trauma from her childhood.

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“When I found out that he had already tried to commit suicide in the past and claimed that he was attacked and raped at the church accommodation, I started to see red flags.”

In custody after more than two years

Werner was charged with murdering his wife on 13 October 2021, at their house in Amanzimtoti, where they lived with their two daughters at the time. Liezel was attacked and strangled. He also faced two counts of fraud.

Werner had been in custody at Westville Prison in Durban since 10 November. He had appeared in the Amanzimtoti Magistrate’s Court several times as part of his bail application.

Watch Warner de Jager in court for the murder of his wife:

During the bail application, it emerged that two more charges would be added to the charge sheet. This relates to an accident in which he was involved on 15 April 2023, in which two women died.

He was due to appear in court again on 10 May, but died on 15 April. The cause of his death has not been confirmed by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

The first red lights start flashing

Burger says she once drove with Liezel to Upington to get a few things done in town.

On the way back, Liezel told her that Werner had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was taking medication for it.

During the same trip, Werner called Liezel. Burger could tell that the call was about the kids. Liezel then rushed and said she “had to get home”.

On another occasion, Burger was sitting outside one evening when she heard an argument. She walked closer to the fence and saw Werner and Liezel walking out the door. Liezel held her car keys and was heading to her car, which was parked in the driveway.

“When I saw Werner’s face, I called out Liezel’s name to warn her. Werner heard me and went back into the house. Liezel just nodded her head at me and walked off,” says Burger.

She invited Burger for coffee the next day. “We sat in the kitchen, but Werner kept pacing around us.”

Burger says she and Liezel were uncomfortable with the situation, and it was clear that Werner was aware of it, but he still wouldn’t allow them to talk alone.

“After this, I often noticed turbulence between them. Something was definitely not right.”

The murder that shook the country

On 13 October 2021, Liezel went jogging early in the morning with friends. She was never seen alive again after returning home.

When the investigation into her death yielded nothing after two years, Ian Cameron, then with the civil rights organisation Action Society, intervened. Werner was arrested shortly thereafter.

After several court appearances during his bail application, Werner died on 15 April. Cameron wrote on Facebook: “Reports are coming in that Werner De Jager, accused of and awaiting trial for the premeditated murder of his wife, Liezel De Jager, almost two-and-a-half years ago, has died of an alleged overdose in the correctional facility where he was held in Durban, KZN. However, the cause of his death is yet to be confirmed.”

“I was very shocked when I heard that Liezel was murdered,” says Burger. “Who would murder such a beautiful, vibrant person in such a cruel way? There are so many questions. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors and how things were between them at the end.”

Regarding Werner’s arrest and death, she says: “I knew he was capable of a lot, even violence, but I didn’t think he was capable of murder. There will always be many unanswered questions. In a way, Werner’s death brought justice for Liezel, but not the justice she deserved.”

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