A Pretoria woman was suicidal but not suffering from any mental illness or psychosis when she shot and killed her two young sons, a state psychiatrist told the High Court in Pretoria.
A private psychiatrist employed by double murder accused Rehithile Matjane, 34, previously told the court Matjane had acted in a state of sane automatism brought on by a temporary depressive psychotic episode due to the sideeffects of substances she took.
Matjane pleaded not guilty to the April 2015 murders of her sons Alvaro, two, and Keyon’dre, six, on the grounds that she could not be held criminally liable for her actions.
Both boys were shot in the head. State psychiatrist Dr Jacobeth Pooe testified that it was the unanimous finding of a panel of experts that Matjane had not suffered from any mental disorder or psychosis that could have influenced her to kill her sons.
Matjane told her she had felt “down” and suicidal on the morning before the incident and could not sleep the night before.
After taking her children to school, she phoned her husband and they had a disagreement about renovating a bathroom.
After he reportedly said: “I will build this house and leave you with the children”, she took her husband’s gun and wanted to commit suicide.
But she put the firearm in the car boot before fetching her sons. She told Pooe she could remember getting into the car but nothing else until she woke up on the ground next to her car, with her eldest son lying dead in a pool of blood next to her.
She panicked and ran to the car, where she found her youngest son unresponsive, strapped into the front passenger seat.
She could not understand what had happened and said it “felt like a nightmare”.
Pooe said Matjane’s actions were precise, purposeful and rational. She had the skills to drive to a secluded spot and when she realised the enormity of what she had done, looked for help to kill herself.
She was not disoriented and conversed normally. She said Matjane was happily married and a good mother and her actions that day had been out of character. – firstname.lastname@example.org