A failure by the police to act swiftly to a complaint of gender-based violence lodged with them in Windhoek led to the death of Magdalena Swartbooi, who was fatally stabbed on Wednesday evening while lying on the bed, talking on a cellphone.
After stabbing her the boyfriend dragged his dying victim into the sitting room where the family members, including the deceased’s children, were watching television.
Swartbooi had on Saturday opened a case with the police that her boyfriend was threatening to kill her. Police spokesperson Slogan Matheus yesterday confirmed to New Era that the deceased opened a case on Saturday – and they are now “investigating the case relating to the charge [opened] on Saturday as to why it was not followed up”.
“If police took the incident seriously, then this would not have happened. They didn’t bother to look for the suspect,” Swartbooi’s grief-stricken younger sister, Erika, said yesterday.
On Wednesday morning the suspect had again threatened Swartbooi and extended the threats to her children and Erika.
The family of Swartbooi yesterday narrated how the boyfriend, who is still being hunted down by the police, had for the past two weeks called and sent text messages that he would kill the 34-year-old Swartbooi and burn down her home.
The man, who has been described as abusive, was not yet arrested by the time of going to print. He has one child with Swartbooi, a six-year-old girl.
Swartbooi was a mother to four children, one of whom is an adopted son.
According to the family the incident took place on Wednesday night at around 23:00, when Swartbooi’s boyfriend of seven years stormed into their home in Barlett Street in Goreangab informal settlement. He went into Swartbooi’s bedroom, where he found her lying on the bed talking on the cellphone. He stabbed her three times in the stomach and carried her bleeding body to the TV room, where he dumped it at the feet of those in the room watching television. He then fled the scene.
Matheus said the police are “investigating the murder charge. As we speak, the police are pursuing the suspect.”
Windhoek City Police yesterday urged the public to always notify them when they open a life-threatening case, such as of gender-based violence, to speed up an arrest.
“If we were serious about protecting women, if we were serious about the significance of eliminating gender-based violence, then care could have been taken to ensure that the culprit was arrested on that fateful Sunday. Surely a life could have been saved,” said City Police spokesperson Cillie Auala.
Auala said the procedure would be much faster if victims know and disclose the whereabouts of the offender. Once a case number is allocated and details of the offender are known, an arrest can be made immediately.
Family members said the suspect called one of the relatives yesterday morning, inquiring as to what had happened the previous evening. “He called to ask if Magdalena has passed on, or is alive. He also wanted to hear his daughter’s voice for the last time before handing himself over to the police,” one family member said.
Another relative said that after the incident the suspect came in close proximity to the house about three times, and when they informed the police about his presence they did not do anything.
Swartbooi’s family described the suspect as a jealous, abusive man, especially when intoxicated.
“He would follow her when she spoke on the cellphone and asked who she was talking to or sending text messages to,” a relative said.